China's government reiterated on Thursday that foreign Internet companies such as Google Inc. must abide by its laws, which require censoring online material that is considered to be politically sensitive.
The comments by China's Foreign Ministry came two days after Google co-founder Sergey Brin acknowledged that his company compromised its principles by introducing a Chinese search engine that filters controversial links about democracy, among other topics. He also raised the possibility that Google may shut down the Web site if conditions in the country prove to be too onerous.
In a statement Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao ruled out any flexibility in China's censorship rules and emphasized that companies must follow the law, according to press reports.
"Any cooperation on economy and trade should be conducted with the framework of the law," Liu said, according to the Voice of America. "We also hope relevant companies operating and developing business in China can abide by Chinese law."
Google, the Mountain View search giant, entered the market in China five months ago after what its executives described as considerable soul searching about the implications of censoring results. Ultimately, the company decided that providing some information to Chinese users was better than none at all.
China has an estimated 110 million Internet users and is considered a potentially lucrative to prize to any U.S. company that can carve out a chunk of the market. For the most part, Chinese companies dominate the industry.
Human rights groups have criticized Google's move and have accused the company, along with others doing business in China, of collaborating with the Beijing government.
Previously, Chinese users had only intermittent access to Google's U.S.-based search engine because of blocking by the Chinese government. Last week, Reporters Without Borders, a free-speech group, said that Google's U.S.-based service was blocked again by the Beijing government's censors.
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