China Punishes Google, Accuses Website of Spreading Pornography

China says it has taken unspecified punitive actions against the Google search engine, which it accuses of violating Chinese law by spreading pornography. The official comments come as computer users in China experience intermittent difficulty accessing Google.

China has recently stepped up its criticism of the world's biggest search engine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang was asked Thursday about recent difficulties computer users in China have had accessing Google and its related sites.

He says the Chinese government is carrying out its duty to protect young people from online pornography.

Qin says Chinese authorities have found that Google is spreading "pornographic, lewd and vulgar content," in violation of China's laws and regulations.

He says Chinese authorities have summoned the company's representatives and urged them to immediately remove the objectionable content.

Qin urged Google to abide by Chinese laws and regulations and said Chinese authorities have taken "punitive measures," although he gave no details. He also gave no specific examples of Google's alleged lewd content.

Access to Google in Beijing was temporarily interrupted Wednesday. As of Thursday afternoon, Google access for computer users at some of Beijing's universities was still blocked.

Google recently issued a statement saying it would step up efforts to stop pornography from reaching users in China. A Google spokeswoman is quoted by media Thursday as saying the California-based company is now looking into reports that users in China cannot access Google.

Beijing's latest comments come days before a Chinese-government set deadline for all computers sold in China to come packaged with Internet filtering software, known as "Green Dam."

Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk wrote a letter to Chinese officials, raising concerns that Beijing's order may violate free-trade commitments.

When asked about the latest American concerns that Green Dam could become a trade issue, the Chinese spokesman said he had nothing to add to earlier comments that the software is necessary to stop online pornography.