China to 'severely punish' Google attackers

China intends to "severely punish" those found responsible for a January cyberattack on Google and other U.S. businesses, officials said this weekend.

However, Chinese leaders maintain they have yet to receive an official complaint about the incident from the U.S.-based search giant, which has threatened to cease all business in China following the widespread security breach, Reuters reported on Monday.

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"If Google has had evidence that the attacks came from China, the Chinese government will welcome them to provide the information and will severely punish the offenders according to the law," Miao Wei, China's vice minister of Industry and Information Technology, told state-run news media this weekend.

"We never support hacking attacks because China also falls victim to hacking attacks," he added.

Google and China have been at odds for weeks now, after Google discovered its servers had been compromised by hackers believed to be working out of two Chinese schools -- one of which Google said had clear ties to the state's military.

According to the search giant, the primary targets were human rights activists using Google's Gmail system, as well a series of businesses in the United States.

But Chinese officials have denied any involvement in that breach, and the two schools to which Google has traced the attack also maintain no wrongdoing occurred on their campuses.

Still, Google has promised it will stop censoring its search results in China, though company executives have declined to stipulate a hard deadline for that monumental policy shift. The search giant has also threatened to cease all business operations in China if the cyberattacks continue.

But Chinese officials told reporters this weekend that Google had never actually issued them that ultimatum. However, Wei did say China would respect Google's decision to leave if it so chooses.

"If Google decides to continue its business in China and abides by China's laws, it's welcome to stay," he said. "If the company chooses to withdraw from the Chinese market, it must go through certain procedures according to the law and regulations and deal with customers' problems that may arise."

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