The day "human rights" became "Hunan rice"
Google spokesperson Tracy Klugian said, "When you typed 'human rights', you'd get 'Did you mean Hunan rice?'" She added, "For us, that was the last straw."
Chinese government spokesperson Qiu Liangyong responded by saying, "It's legitimate to ask if someone was searching for Hunan rice. People here like rice — a lot." But in the ping-pong between Google and Beijing, Tracy Klugian hit back: "What the Chinese government is doing amounts to wanton censorship. In fact, if you googled 'wanton censorship' in China, you'd get, 'Did you mean wonton sesame shrimp?'"
Google's decision on Tuesday to shut its mainland Chinese search service, Google.cn, was taken against a background of cyber-attacks and censorship. Reacting to the news, @wentommy immediately tweeted, "One Google, One World; One China, No Google".
The bigger picture is that Beijing is pioneering a new kind of information authoritarianism, and the really frightening thing is that it's working. Idealists who believe that more information leads to more freedom are learning the hard way that a dictatorship can actually increase its power while expanding internet and mobile-phone use. This is what Chinese blogger Isaac Mao has been saying for years, except that no one in China is allowed to read what he writes. If you would like to learn more about this story, Andrew Lih has an excellent post about the basic facts.