Google threatens to pull out of China after cyber attacks on Gmail

Google is considering shutting down its China operations after finding "a highly sophisticated and targeted attack" on its corporate infrastructure that originated from the country.

The attack, which also affected about 20 other companies, appears to have been aimed at accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, the company said in its corporate blog.

"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China," said Google's chief legal officer David Drummond.

As a result of the attacks, Google said it may decide to pull out of China altogether after it has discussions with the Chinese government. It started its Google.cn operations in 2006 and said at the time it could monitor the conditions in China. If new laws or other restrictions on Google surfaced, the company said it would "not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.

"We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all," Drummond said. "We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked for an explanation from China in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, Google's stock dropped in morning trading while Baidu, a rival Chinese search engine, saw its stock jump.