Google was "totally wrong" to stop censoring results on its China-based search engine, Chinese state-controlled media cited a government official as saying early Tuesday.
The remarks stopped short of saying if China might take any punitive action against Google. But the criticism was China's first official reaction after the U.S. company started redirecting users of Google.cn to the company's Hong Kong search site, Google.com.hk, where the company said it was offering "uncensored search... specifically designed for users in mainland China."
"We resolutely oppose the politicization of commercial problems, and express dissatisfaction and indignation toward Google's unreasonable criticism and actions," China's Xinhua news agency paraphrased an official in the Internet section of the State Council Information Office as saying.
It was "totally wrong" for Google to violate a written promise it made when it entered the Chinese market, to stop censoring search results and to criticize China over hacking attacks, the official was cited as saying.
Google cited concerns about censorship and hacking allegedly launched from China when it first announced planned changes to its Chinese site in January. Google did not specifically blame the Chinese government for the attacks and China has denied involvement.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday beyond the contents of the blog post announcing the change to Google.cn.
Chinese officials held talks twice with Google, once in January and once in February, Xinhua said. The talks came after repeated pleas from Google, and the Chinese officials "patiently and painstakingly" explained to Google that companies operating in China must obey Chinese laws, the report said.
Google's blog post said the Chinese government had been "crystal clear... that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement."
Google's Hong Kong search site is currently accessible from mainland China and carries the message, "Welcome to the new home of Google search in China." But the company blog post said Google knows that China could decide to block access to Google services at any time.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China but operates under its own government that does not restrict free speech like authorities in mainland China.