Google Faces Lawsuit From Chinese Dissident

By Mure Dickie in Beijing, The Financial Times, UK, February 2 2008-

A Chinese scholar who -challenged the communist government by setting up a democratic opposition party has vowed to sue US internet company Google for excising his name from its local search results.

Guo Quan’s condemnation of Google comes amid a renewed drive by Chinese authorities to clamp down on dissent ahead of the Beijing Olympics that has seen the arrest of Hu Jia, one of China’s best-known human rights activists.

The threatened lawsuit by Mr Guo, a former Nanjing university professor, highlights the anger felt by some reform-minded Chinese at the willingness of foreign companies to bow to censorship in order to gain access to China’s tightly restricted internet market.

“To make money, Google has become a servile Pekingese dog wagging its tail at the heels of the Chinese communists,” Mr Guo wrote in an open letter announcing his plan to sue the US search company.

The excision of Mr Guo’s name from google.cn raises questions about Google’s censorship policy for the two-year-old website. Google had promised to inform users when it censored searches, using a tagline that says some results have been removed “in accordance with local laws, rules and policies”.

But entering Mr Guo’s name in google.cn yesterday yielded a webpage featuring only the message: “The information you searched for cannot be accessed. Please go back to google.cn and seek other information.”

Speaking through a public relations representative, Google China said yesterday that it would not comment on political or censorship issues.

The special action against Mr Guo’s name comes after he announced late last year the creation of the New Democracy party dedicated to ending China’s “one-party dictatorship”.

Baidu.com, the Nasdaq-listed Chinese search company, and the locally controlled Chinese arm of US portal Yahoo have also blocked all searches for Mr Guo’s name.

“Baidu is a Chinese company, so I can understand how it is coerced by the Chinese Communist party,” Mr Guo wrote.

“But Google follows the party’s orders even though it is a US company, so I’m suing.”

Google’s actions had harmed the eponymous clothes company of which he was chairman – as well as the many other people in China who shared his name, said Mr Guo. A friend in the US would handle legal arrangements for his suit, he wrote, but gave no details.

Analysts say Beijing has been tightening controls on local media and the internet apparently in an effort to ensure political stability ahead of the Olympics in August.

- Original report from The Financial Times

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