Google Defends Decision to Work with Chinese Censors

Eric Schmidt, the head of the U.S. Internet giant Google, has reaffirmed his company's willingness to abide by the Chinese Communist government's censorship rules.

With music and bright lights shining on huge letters spelling out "Google," the Internet company unveiled its new Chinese-language trade name - "Guge" - at a ceremony in a hotel ballroom in Beijing.

The unveiling marks a big step for the firm, which is fighting to gain market share in the fast-growing Chinese Internet market.

That battle has driven the company to make compromises, which include not offering blog tools or e-mail service to Chinese users. The Chinese authorities are afraid citizens will use those tools to send and receive information that the authorities deem sensitive or subversive.

Google and other Internet companies have come under scrutiny from some U.S. politicians and international press freedom advocates for complying with Chinese censors.

But Google chief Eric Schmidt on Wednesday defended his company's decision, which he described as "absolutely the right one."

"From our perspective, we must comply with the local law, and indeed, we have all made commitments to the government that we will absolutely follow Chinese law," he said. "We don't have an alternative and the Chinese law does prohibit certain information. We made the decision to go ahead and implement those prohibitions because we have to implement local law and it is in that spirit that we have entered the China market in order to serve the end-users."

Another U.S. company, Yahoo, was heavily criticized for handing over information that helped the Chinese authorities imprison at least one person for e-mailing what was deemed to be a sensitive message.

China bans online discussion of such issues as democracy, Taiwan or Tibetan independence, the banned Falun Gong spiritual group, and the Chinese army's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and near Tiananmen Square.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders has been among those criticizing Internet companies for cooperating with the China censors. But Julien Pain, who heads the group's Internet freedom desk, supports Google in this case.

Pain says that if Google offered blogging and e-mail services in China, it might eventually be forced to give the government information about its customers' use of these tools.

"So we really think that it's very important that Google stick to its position, and unfortunately, we are not sure that in the future they will stick to it," he said.

Google on Wednesday said its expansion plans include establishing a research center in Beijing that will employ 150 people.