On Tuesday, we issued a statement about Google’s new configuration of its Chinese search service. The statement reflected a concern that Google’s shift from an auto redirect procedure to a pageview with link deprived average users of access to Google’s search services in Hong Kong. That concern emanated from the following facts: when Google first instituted its auto redirect policy in March, users reported and credible press* verified that circumvention tools were required to access Google’s Hong Kong site. While we now understand that this is no longer necessary, when we used technical means to simulate a connection from China, we successfully loaded Google’s mainland site but were unable to reach the site in Hong Kong. (This appeared to be unrelated to the later problem with suggested search terms operations.) On that basis, we concluded that Google’s new process required circumvention tools and that Google had acquiesced in China’s demands in a way that negatively impacted the ability of users in China to access uncensored searches via Google.
Based on conversations with Google and others, we now believe that conclusion was incorrect. We’ve shared our experiences and information with Google, as well as other organizations and users in China. Although it remains unclear why we were unable to access the Hong Kong site, we’re satisfied that Google’s new approach does not impede Chinese users. Google continues to provide a pathway to the Hong Kong site; the Chinese government remains able, and continues, to censor certain search results under the new process.