China warns websites not to follow Google's lead on censorship

Chinese officials on Friday informed local websites that partner with Google that they must continue censoring online content, in the event Google does follow through with its threat to cease complying with China's strict online content restrictions.

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Among other things, that would mean websites that include Google search bars -- including www.sina.com.cn, China's most popular site -- must remove those tools, or find an alternative way to censor its results, according to The New York Times, which first reported the news.

Ultimately, China's latest warning hints that a slew of penalties await website owners who follow Google's lead and begin to rally against the state's tough censorship regulations. Most are likely to comply.

But the Chinese government's salvo also reveals that negotiations between the search giant and officials in Beijing have not proceeded as smoothly as once reported, perhaps an early signal that Google may withdraw from China's search business entirely.

However, Google officials seemed to suggest to the Times this weekend that it had no plans to suspend all of its business in China, even if Beijing forces an end to its search operations. At the very lease, Google plans to continue its mobile phone ventures there, which have expanded recently in tandem with the launch of the Android operating system.