HONG KONG—Authorities in Beijing have said they haven’t yet issued an Internet content provider license to the Internet search giant Google, ending online speculation that it had already been renewed.
An employee who answered the phone at the spokesman’s office of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said officials hadn’t yet made a decision on Google’s content provider license.
“We haven’t finished looking at it yet,” an official said.
“They submitted it too late, so I don’t yet have any news on this.”
“All I know is that they submitted it fairly late, and it takes a set number of working days to process it,” the official said.
Netizens had noticed in recent days that the China-based google.cn page had recently added a license number to the bottom of its search page.
China’s MIIT is the body responsible for renewing and reviewing Internet Content Provider (ICP) licenses.
Google said last week it would stop automatically rerouting users to its uncensored Hong Kong search site after Beijing indicated it would not renew Google’s ICP license if it continued to do so.
Users must now simply click anywhere on a China-based landing page to access the Hong Kong-based search engine.
The results they get could still be subject to filtering through China’s own automated censorship system, known as the Great Firewall (GFW), however.
Google warned in January it might quit the country over censorship concerns and after suffering a hacker attack it said came from within China.
Hu Xingdou, a sociology professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said Google’s license was likely to be renewed as long as the paperwork was in order.
“If it’s in order, they should renew their license,” Hu said.
“If not, they should give them an opportunity to add to the documents they submit with their application."
“There should be no question of deliberate pressure or man-made problems here,” he said.
Internet expert Su Ke said the key issue is whether Google’s search engine will still redirect users to the google.com.hk search page.
“Google has tried to pursue its policy of not doing evil in China,” Su said.
“But it will be very hard in that case for it to develop its search engine business in China.”
The Internet Content Provider (ICP) license is vital to Google’s operations in a country with more than 400 million Web users.
A Web page maintained by Google on the accessibility to its services in mainland China, google.com/prc/report.html, on Wednesday listed its Web search service as “partially blocked” for the last week.
Attempts Wednesday to use the Google Suggest function, which provides users with suggested words as they type a query into the Google search box, in mainland China were unsuccessful, Agence France-Presse reported from Beijing.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan and in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Chinese and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.