China Escalates Diplomatic Row Over Google Censorship, Hacking Incidents

Those developments continue a diplomatic row that began two weeks ago when Internet search giant Google threatened to close down its operations in China because of censorship and hacking attacks. The dispute escalated last Thursday when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on China to stop censoring Internet content and investigate the hacking incidents.

The People's Daily, China's leading newspaper and the chief media outlet for the ruling Communist Party, said Tuesday that the issue is damaging bilateral relations between the U.S. and China and that Washington is exploiting Google's claims "in an effort to restrict China's right to protect its national security and interests on the Internet," the newspaper said, according to a Reuters report.

"It is not difficult to see the shadow of the U.S. government behind the politicization of the Google affair. These statements and actions disregard reality and harm China's national image, upsetting the healthy and stable development of Sino-U.S. ties," the paper said, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month Google said it was considering shutting down its operations in China after the company said it uncovered evidence Chinese authorities might be hacking into Gmail accounts of human rights activists. Google also said it will no longer censor its results on, as it originally agreed to when it launched operations in China four years ago, potentially setting up a confrontation with China's government.

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Clinton added fuel to the fire last Thursday in a speech in which she said: "Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century."

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy organization, said Monday that its Web site was hit by a distributed denial of service attack over the weekend. Other organizations were likewise hit, including Civil Rights and Livelihood watch, Independent Chinese Pen center, New Century News and Canyu.

China has denied any involvement in the hacking incidents and defended its Internet censorship practices. Monday China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said the hacking accusation is "groundless and aims to denigrate China," according to an ABC News story.

Tuesday Serge Abou, the EU ambassador to China, called freedom of information a "fundamental liberty" and said the Internet "is an important tool for communication in the interest of the Chinese people," when asked about the Google dispute, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

But there are also indications diplomats might be working to resolve the diplomatic standoff. China's Foreign Ministry signaled that it did not want the issue to damage Sino-U.S. relations, according to the Reuters story. And the ABC News story on Monday said U.S. and Chinese officials have met in Washington, D.C., and Beijing to discuss the Google dispute.