Supporters of the internet giant Google have left flowers and lit candles outside its China headquarters after the company closed down its search engine facility in the country.
In protest at censorship, the US company is redirecting users to its unrestricted Chinese-language service based in Hong Kong, although results are still vetted.
“I hope if Google does return to China, it’ll provide a complete service without being restricted by censorship,” said one Beijing-based computer science student.
The Chinese authorities, which operate an extensive monitoring system to control web activity, have described Google’s decision to close its search service in Beijing as “totally wrong”.
“Any company entering China should abide by Chinese laws. Google operates under its own laws,” said Chen Yafei, an internet technology specialist. “The fighting between Google and the Chinese government is their own business. Chinese internet users will have no regrets if they withdraw.”
Google threatened to pull out of China in January after websites and email accounts – in particular those of human rights activists – were attacked from inside the country.