Google is “99.9% certain” it will shut its China search business after talks with Chinese authorities on censorship have failed to make progress.
The search firm has drawn up detailed plans for the closure of its search engine and was likely to make a decision very soon, FT.com reported Saturday, quoting a source “familiar with the company’s thinking.”
The source said Google’s senior executives were “adamant” about ending censorship of the google.cn search engine and had ruled out the possibility of handing majority control over to a local player.
The news comes as China issued its strongest warning yet against Google lifting the filtering on its China search results.
Li Yizhong, minister of Industry and Information Technology, told an annual legislative meeting that Google.cn could be shut down if the firm goes through with a plan to end censorship that China considers essential to maintaining social stability.
He issued the warning on Friday, after telling the meeting the country must act to protect its national interests, the BBC reports.
Yizhong reportedly said the decision on whether Google stayed in China is in the firm’s hands, but he cautioned that any firm failing to meet domestic laws would be regarded as unfriendly, and so would “have to pay the consequences,” of their actions.
“What needs to be shut down will be shut down, what needs to be blocked will be blocked,” he said.
Google announced two months ago that it was considering shutting down its China website because of censorship and following a massive cyber-attack that it said had originated in China.
The search firm is in talks with the Chinese government to work out if it can offer unfiltered results without breaching domestic laws.
CEO Eric Schmidt said last week that the talks would be concluded soon, but refused to comment on the progress to-date.
The Wall St Journal reports a Google insider said the firm could take the decision to quit the country in a matter of weeks.
Google is also lobbying the US government to make a WTO complaint against China over censorship as an unfair trade barrier.