Google on Monday announced it has stopped censoring search results in China.
The announcement came amid speculation that the search giant would pull out of China entirely and sets up a showdown with the Communist leadership there.
In a 3:03 p.m. ET post on its official blog, Google said it stopped running the censored Google.cn service on Monday and was routing its Chinese users to an uncensored version of Google based in Hong Kong.
"We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement," said Senior Vice President David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, on the blog.
Google hopes the move "will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China," Drummond wrote.
"We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services," he added.
Google said it would be carefully monitoring to see if access to the site is blocked in mainland China.
Early reports from China on Monday suggested that the Chinese government was already restricting access to Google's Hong Kong-based site, said Eddan Katz, International Affairs Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"We've already heard indications that visitors to Google.hk are getting 'can't find page' errors," he said.----------------------------------------
Google has put up a "Mainland China Service Availability" site...