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What does Google decision mean for Chinese users?

By Kevin Voigt and Lara Farrar, CNN
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Awaiting Beijing's next steps
  • Google hasn't left China, but searches are redirected to Hong Kong site
  • Searches aren't censored by Google, but are by mainland China censors
  • Hong Kong, while part of China, is not under mainland China media laws

(CNN) -- Google's decision to redirect users in China to its Hong Kong site is the latest salvos in an ongoing dispute between the search giant, which entered China's market in 2006, and Beijing. Here is a snapshot of the ongoing dispute and what it means for online users in China:

What happens when users in China now search on Google?

They are redirected from to, a region of China that is not under censorship. Before Monday, Google self-censored searches for issues of a sexual nature or that were politically sensitive under Chinese law.

Although Google is now no longer censoring, Chinese state censors are still filtering and blocking searches through a system known as "The Great Firewall."

A search in Chinese on the terms "Tiananmen Square massacre," a reference to the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 1989, or "Falun Gong," a religious group illegal in China, and this message appeared on Tuesday: "The Connection was reset- connection to server was reset while the page was loading." Then users find access to severed for a few minutes -- local Web users refer to this as a "wrist slap" for trying to find such terms.

Searches on the same terms in China in English on Tuesday occasionally were successful, but often resulted in the same blocked page.

Video: Why Google chose Hong Kong
Video: Google shutting China search engine
Video: Online showdown in China
  • China
  • Google Inc.
  • Censorship

Has Google left China?

No -- it is still operating research and development departments and has sales staff. However, Google said if the government blocks access from mainland China to its Hong Kong search site, it may further reduce its presence there.

As of Tuesday afternoon Beijing time these services were still available in China: Images, News, Ads and Gmail. Picasa, Groups and Docs were partially blocked. YouTube, Sites and Blogger were blocked.

Why isn't Hong Kong censored?

Although now part of China, the handover agreement from British rule allows the city to operate as a semi-autonomous region until 2047 -- the "one country, two systems" approach. The city has a free press and tolerates political dissent.

What do Chinese think of this?

For many of China's massive online audience -- nearly 400 million strong -- the move won't matter, especially since users there mostly surf for games and music. Google, which entered China's market in 2006, has about one-third of the search market -- far behind Baidu, which has about two-thirds of it. Academics, researchers and business people, however, are more concerned because local Chinese search engines are less successful at international searches in English.

Google-China move hurts businesses, academics

Online chatter on Chinese micro blogs and other social networking sites regarding the Hong Kong reroute on early Tuesday was almost completely silent. Such sites are heavily monitored by the country's Web police and presumably are removing any commentary regarding the Google situation.

However, Twitter -- which is blocked in China but accessed by many Internet users in the country via proxy sites -- has been overloaded with talk of the situation. Late night, the site was temporarily unavailable. Its main Web site read: "Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again!"

This morning Twitter is loaded with links to articles on the Google situation as well as chatter about accessing and how the site is functioning from the mainland.

CNN's Fan Wen-Chun contributed to this report.