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Cold front about to move in northern Vietnam

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

A cold front from the north has moved towards northern Vietnam and is forecast to cover the area this night, according to the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center.

Affected by the cold front, northern provinces will have showers and sparse thunderstorms together with impending tornadoes while the central region will see medium to heavy rains tomorrow morning.

In southern region, the weather has turned cloudy and rainy due to an inter-tropical convergence zone which was heading towards the north yesterday.

Meanwhile, a low pressure system has intensified on the East Sea. It was on the northern part of Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, specifically at 10-12 degrees north latitude, 110-112 east longitude on this morning.

Affected by the system and southwesterly winds, the middle and southern parts of the East Sea, the waters off Binh Dinh to Ca Mau and Ca Mau to Kien Giang provinces and Thailand Gulf will experience gusts and thunderstorms.

Quang Binh Province Red Cross officials give relief goods to a resident in the central region (Photo: SGGP)

In related news, as of yesterday afternoon Ho Chi Minh City Fatherland Front Committee received about VND3.5 billion (US$179,000) and over 12,000 kilograms of rice, instant noodle, bottled water and clothes from organizations and individuals in the city for flood-hit provinces of Quang Binh, Ha Tinh, Thua Thien-Hue and Nghe An.

The same day, chairman of Hanoi Fatherland Front Committee Dao Van Binh led a mission visited and gave Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces VND3.5 billion, which partly should have been spent on firework performance to welcome the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi on October 10.

Over the last few days, people nationalwide have assisted flood-battled residents with VND3.75 billion.

On three days beginning Wednesday, a relief delegation from the Construction Corporation No.1 would visited and offered 2,000 presents, worth VND500,000 each, to residents in Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Nghe An provinces.

Quang Binh alone so far has received nearly VND20 billion (US$1 million) in relief. The province has suffered a total damage estimated at VND1,800 billion in the fatal floods since early October.

Source: SGGP

Australian PM calls poll, vowing to ‘move forward’

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

AFP/File – Australian Prime Minister Julia

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Saturday called an August 21 election, vowing to tackle the flashpoint issues of refugees, the economy and global warming, just weeks after taking power.

Gillard, 48, said she would ask the Australian people to endorse her leadership after she ruthlessly deposed former prime minister Kevin Rudd in a party coup.

“Today I seek a mandate from the Australian people to move Australia forward,” Gillard said, officially kicking off the five-week campaign.

“This election I believe presents Australians with a very clear choice — whether we move Australia forward or go back.”

Australia’s first woman prime minister said the nation had “come too far as a country and evolved too much as a society to risk the kind of backward looking leadership” offered by her conservative opponent Tony Abbott.

The former industrial lawyer laid out her case for re-election on the issues of asylum seekers, economic management and climate change, painting herself as a progressive optimist who was “asking the Australian people for their trust.”

But — after just three weeks in office in which she insisted she had made some “big strides forward” — she warned it would be a “very close election” and that a “close, tough, hard-fought campaign” lay ahead.

She faces an uphill battle to deliver the centre-left ruling Labor party a second three-year term in office, after a spectacular fall from the dizzying heights of popularity it enjoyed for its first two years in power.

The bloody campaign pits self-confessed atheist Gillard against scrappy former student boxer Abbott, head of the Liberal-National coalition, who played a key role in sinking Rudd’s career.

Once regular sparring partners on commercial breakfast television, Gillard said she expected Abbott to prove a “robust” opponent.

The staunch Catholic attacked Gillard as “ruthless”, asking how voters could trust her “when even Kevin Rudd couldn’t” and when she couldn’t herself be sure she would serve a full term before being knifed by the factions.

Abbott said his Liberal-National party coalition would “stand up for Australia” and for real action on the economy and boatpeople

“I’m going to end the waste, repay the debt, stop the new taxes and stop the boats. That’s what you’ll get from me,” he said.

Gillard promised to outline her climate policies during the campaign and said she was “a person who believes climate change is real, who believes it’s caused by human activity and who has never equivocated in that belief.”

Abbott, who once dismissed climate change as “absolute crap” countered that a return to Labor would mean a carbon tax, saying: “It will be high and it will impact on everyone’s standard of living.”

The opposition would need to achieve a swing of 2.3 percent to return to power, less than three years after their 11 years in rule were ended by Rudd’s landslide election victory in November 2007.

John Warhurst, a political analyst from the Australian National University said Labor was likely to win, with incumbency and the polls both weighing in their favour and Gillard seen “on balance” as a plus.

Formerly his deputy, Gillard has enjoyed a strong opinion poll surge since succeeding Rudd, who in six months went from being one of the most popular prime ministers in Australian history to being discarded.

But Warhurst warned that it would be a fight won largely on personality.

Gillard could mount a very strong economic argument, but he said the inflammatory issue of boatpeople was “potentially a plus for the opposition.”

“That’s an issue also where I think Julia Gillard has stumbled in the past couple of weeks and has not performed particularly well,” he said.

A Nielsen and Galaxy opinion poll last week gave Labor a narrow but election-winning 52-48 percent lead over the opposition coalition, up from early June.

The election for members of the lower House of Representatives and half of the Senate is expected to be played out in key marginal seats in the populous eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Source: SGGP

Heat wave sets to move through northern and central regions

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Northern and central provinces will heat up again June 25-26, the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center has said.

Northern and central regions will be sunny and hot June 24-25 (Photo: VTC)

The regions will experience scorching weather with temperatures forecasted to soar above 38 Celsius degrees, due to a hot westerly low-pressure system, the center said.

Meteorologists predict the heat wave will end June 26 when the areas should see showers.

Southern provinces continue to be affected by medium-grade southwesterly winds.

It will be cloudy and some places will see showers and thunderstorms at nighttime, with temperatures hovering around 28-34 degrees.

Source: SGGP

US, India move to reassure each other on ties

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2010 at 10:09 am

India and the United States were seeking to reassure each other on Thursday about their warming relationship as they lay the groundwork for a visit by President Barack Obama later this year.

US policymakers across the political spectrum support developing a broad alliance with India, which had uneasy relations with Washington throughout the Cold War.

But many Indians remain anxious about Obama, who has put a high priority on relations with fellow rising Asian power China, and has boosted aid to Pakistan in a bid to fight Islamic extremism in India’s historic rival.

US and Indian flags fly side by side in New Delhi during a diplomatic event in the city

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna will hold a day of talks Thursday aiming to step up cooperation between the world’s largest democracies on a range of issues in South Asia and beyond.

Obama is expected to make an unusual visit to the State Department to take part personally in the dialogue’s reception, which will also include members of the increasingly influential Indian-American community.

Obama plans to pay his first presidential visit to India later this year. In November, he invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the honor of Obama’s first White House state dinner.

The top White House economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, said it was an anomaly that India and the United States did not have closer relations.

“It is the confident expectation of the government of the United States that that will be very different in the 21st century,” Summers told the US-India Business Council on Wednesday.

William Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, said Tuesday that the United States sought the “strongest possible partnership” with India and did not link the relationship to Pakistan or China.

Burns on Wednesday opened the dialogue with closed-door meetings with his Indian counterpart, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

Relations between India and the United States improved markedly under former president George W. Bush, who spearheaded a landmark agreement that allows New Delhi access to civilian nuclear technology.

India had been a pariah after declaring itself a nuclear weapons power in 1998 with tests that were reciprocated by Pakistan. Both countries refuse to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

While some lawmakers from his Democratic Party initially opposed the nuclear cooperation deal, the Obama administration has forged ahead with it, completing arrangements in March for the reprocessing of nuclear material.

But the United States still wants India to approve legislation that would limit compensation payments from nuclear suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident.

Krishna, also addressing the US-India Business Council, vowed to push ahead despite controversy over the bill in parliament.

“We are well within the agreed timeframes. Of course, the government is committed to putting in place a nuclear liability regime,” Krishna said.

Critics of the bill point to what they see as light punishment meted out after the 1984 industrial disaster in Bhopal, in which upwards of 10,000 Indians died in a gas leak from the Union Carbide plant.

But advocates say that such liability caps are standard practice around the world, with nuclear plant operators — not their suppliers — bearing the main burden for any accidents.

Krishna also called for greater two-way trade, saying: “Economic relationships constitute the bedrock on which social, cultural and political relations are built.”

Source: SGGP

Thai army to move on protest site if no dispersal: spokesman

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

The Thai army said Saturday it plans to move against anti-government protesters’ sprawling base in the capital if they do not disperse, but gave no timetable for taking the action.

A ‘Red Shirt’ anti government protester runs in a street as he faces Thai soldiers (not seen) during ongoing clashes in Bangkok on May 15, 2010. (AFP Photo)

“There is a plan to crack down on Ratchaprasong if the protest does not end,” said army spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, referring to the area in Bangkok occupied by protesters.

“But authorities will not set a deadline because without effective planning there will more loss of life.”

At least 17 people have died in clashes between “Red Shirt” protesters and troops since late Thursday, when the army began blocking roads on the perimeter of the Red Shirt camp in a bid to seal it off.

“The containment plan is not 100-percent effective. There are still some people who manage to enter the protest site but the measure has been able to halve the number of protesters,” he said.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, the government’s spokesman, said 6,000 Red Shirts remained at the site.

Thai “Red Shirt” protester Sakda Sudtae stood guard at two-metre-high barricades made from bamboo, tyres and razor wire Saturday, nervously fingering a slingshot on his belt.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” said the 33-year-old from northeastern Thailand, the morning after his anti-government group’s latest clashes with security forces left at least 16 people dead.

“I’m afraid, but I have no choice. All of us are afraid to die,” he added.

A burnt-out bus stood down the street outside the barricade. Soldiers have moved to seal off the area around the protest site, which sprawls across four kilometres (2.5 miles) of central Bangkok.

A slain Thai woman (top R) lies on the ground along with injured people following fresh street battles between troops and protestors, near an anti-government protest site in downtown Bangkok on May 15, 2010. (AFP Photo)

Gunfire and explosions have rung out around the Red zone, where troops have stepped up security measures to search for weapons and reduce the number of people entering the area.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the lockdown had proved effective because the number of protesters at the main encampment had fallen to 6,000 on Friday night. Children and the elderly appeared to have left the area.

One of the Red Shirts’ own “security guards,” 35-year-old Dang Thongyu from northern Thailand, blamed troops for the recent spike in violence.

“We don’t mind being cordoned off like this. We’re happy to stay in here, but the military has to step back a bit. Instead, they’re moving in,” he said.

“Both sides were testing one another and got closer and closer so inevitably, something happened,” he added.

The barricade guards are the first line of defence for rallies that began in mid-March, inspired by a new political awareness among Thailand’s rural poor that has found increasing support among others displeased with elites.

The Reds condemn the current administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as illegitimate because it came to power with army support in a 2008 parliamentary vote, two years after a coup ousted populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Red guards, wary of snipers, on Saturday morning stretched black fabric to shield a footbridge over their barricades.

On the bridge lay piles of energy-drink bottles and stones ready to be thrown at advancing troops. Reds have also stashed a bottle of motor lubricant and a bag of mung beans to make the road slippery.

“With military boots, they will have problems,” said 42-year-old Somchai Sanwong as he manned the barricades, but acknowledged: “We are all very afraid.”

“Obviously we’re outgunned, outnumbered. In the worst case, if the soldiers come, we’ll just burn the barricades,” he added.

Their movement remained largely peaceful until April 10 when security forces failed in an attempt to disperse the protesters from the city’s historic district, leaving 25 dead and more than 800 injured.

The Red Shirts then shifted their rally base to Bangkok’s upscale retail heartland, forcing mass closures of shopping malls and hotels. Fearful residents have left the area in the face of increased shootings and explosions.

“All my tenants have moved out, temporarily. But for how long does this bloody thing go on?” said Prapa Smutkojob, owner of a pair of apartment buildings within the Red zone.

Down from one barricade, inside the protest area, a handful of residents set up a small barrier of their own to prevent Reds from retreating down their side street.

“When the military pushes people this way, they’ll look for a place to escape. We don’t want them here,” said 30-year-old resident, Piboon Lapchareen.

“They come with weapons and inflammable things and the soldiers will come after them, so you can imagine what would happen,” he added.

On the other side of the barricades, tyres and a garbage truck burned while gunfire rang out on Rama IV road. Ladda Monokalchamvat, 46, and her daughter were dragging suitcases with the help of a doorman.

“I’m leaving my condominium. They’ve switched off all the lights and we don’t have any food. I’m moving to my parents’ place,” she said. “The last two nights have been the most dangerous. That’s why we’re leaving.”

Source: SGGP

VN-Index continues to move backwards

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Vietnam’s benchmark VN-Index, which tracks 227 companies and 4 mutual funds on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange, continued plummet on May 13 as selling took the upper hand.

The index slid 0.13 percent, or 0.67 points, to finish at 518.93. Around 60.2 million shares, worth VND2.18 trillion, were traded.

Among the index members, 75 advanced, 120 fell, and 36 remained stagnant.

Most banking shares gained, except Vietnam Export Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank or Eximbank (EIB), which gave up 0.94 percent to VND21,100.

Saigon Commercial Bank or Sacombank (STB) topped the list of most active stock in volume with more than 2.97 million shares, trading up 0.46 percent. Saigon Securities Inc. (SSI) dropped to the second rank as more than 2.88 million shares changed hands. The brokerage lost 0.25 percent to trade at VND39,400. Ocean Group Joint Stock Company (OCG) came next with 2.08 million shares.

Big losers on the city bourse included the Hanoi-based mechanical manufacturer Son Ha International Corporation (SHI), Cadovimex Seafood Import-Export and Processing Joint Stock Company (CAD), and Phuong Nam Cultural Joint Stock Corporation (PNC).

Vo Thanh Tien, chairman of Cadovimex Co.’s Board of Directors, registered to sell all his holdings, 800,000 shares, between May 13 and July 13 to pay hospital fees for his child. The company will hold the second shareholders meeting on May 22 in Ca Mau Province.

Chuong Duong Beverages Joint Stock Company (SCD) utilized the daily maximum allowed limit of 5 percent to finish the day at VND31,500.

An Pha Petroleum Group Joint Stock Company (ASP) traded at VND15,000, up 4.9 percent over the previous day.

Dong A Plastic Group Joint – Stock Company (DAG) rose by 4.87 percent to VND23,700, heading for three straight gains.

The northern market also stayed in red as the Hanoi’s HNX-Index dropped 0.9 percent, or 1.58 points, to 173.16 points. Liquidity fell to around 41.2 million shares, worth VND1.42 trillion.

Source: SGGP

Japan PM abandons plan to move US base off Okinawa

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:37 am

Protestors demonstrate against U.S. bases in Okinawa in front of the Okinawa prefectural government offices, in Naha, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa May 4, 2010.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Tuesday abandoned a plan to move an unpopular US airbase entirely off the southern island of Okinawa, backtracking on a key election pledge.

“I really feel sorry as I visit here today that I must ask for the Okinawan people’s understanding that part of the base operations would have to stay” on Okinawa, Hatoyama told reporters after meeting the local governor.


Source: SGGP

Thai Red Shirts mull next move after troop deployment

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 3:43 am

BANGKOK, April 20, 2010 (AFP) – Thailand’s “Red Shirt” protesters on Tuesday plotted the next move in their month-long anti-government campaign, after security forces blocked plans for a march on the financial district.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is resisting calls to stand down and announce fresh elections, said the government was intent on clearing the demonstrators from their sprawling rally base in Bangkok’s retail heartland.

Thai soldiers stand in a line along Silom road in the financial district of Bangkok on April 20, 2010. AFP photo

But after a botched crackdown on April 10 that left 25 dead and 800 injured, he said he could not set a deadline for ending the street rallies that have caused massive disruption to business and tourism.

“Both the government and the people want this to end quickly but we have to think about many factors,” he said on television late Monday. “We have to minimise the damage and do this effectively.”

“We cannot set a timeframe. The government knows that the people are suffering but authorities have many elements to consider. We will do our best,” he said.

Thousands of security forces, many armed with assault rifles, descended on central Bangkok Monday after the Red Shirts threatened to march from their protest base towards the nearby Silom financial hub.

“We can see the authorities have protected Silom from an invasion,” Abhisit said.

The Reds have said they will announce their new protest plans on Tuesday.

Amnesty International said that this month’s clashes, which left 19 protesters, five members of the security forces and one foreign journalist dead, must be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

“The military used lethal force in the operations, while some individuals among the protesters also used guns and grenades, as well as improvised weapons,” Amnesty said of Thailand’s worst civil unrest for nearly two decades.

The sequence of events on the night of April 10 remains shadowy. Witnesses and video footage indicated that the violence was kicked off by mysterious black-clad gunmen who both sides on the conflict have disowned.

Amnesty said the Thai government was obliged to protect the lives of all those involved in the crisis “including by exercising due diligence to prevent attacks by non-state actors”.

The red-shirted campaigners, who condemn Abhisit’s administration as elitist, have refused to leave their rallying base which has forced several major shopping centres to close.

The area is dotted with five-star hotels, most of which are virtually empty after days of being surrounded by the Reds’ encampment which stretches for several kilometres along some of the city’s main thoroughfares.

Red officials appear firmly in control of the area, mounting checkpoints, directing traffic and operating a formidable logistical base with long rows of of tents offering food, medicine and facilities for sleeping and washing.

The protesters are mainly supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is now living in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The Reds say that Abhisit’s government is illegitimate because it came to power in a parliamentary vote, not a popular election, and that it is the tool of Thailand’s palace, military and bureaucratic circles.

A rival faction, the elite-backed “Yellow Shirts”, vowed Sunday to take action if the government fails to deal with the protesters within a week, raising fears of new clashes.

The chairman of Thailand’s leading opposition party, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is a Thaksin ally, said Monday he had requested an audience with the nation’s revered king to help resolve the crisis.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, who has no official political role but is seen as a unifying figure, has made no public comment on this month’s violence.

Source: SGGP

US asks China to mull ‘implications’ of Google move

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2010 (AFP) – The United States said Tuesday that China must consider the “implications” of Google’s decision to effectively shut down its Chinese search engine because it was too hard to do business there.

China, meanwhile, angrily attacked Google for stopping censorship of its Chinese-language search engine but said there should be no broader fallout in Sino-US ties provided there was no political meddling in the United States.

The Google logo is reflected in windows of the company’s China head office in Beijing on March 23, 2010. AFP photo

On Wall Street, Google shares shed 1.52 percent on Tuesday to close at 549.00 dollars while Google rival and Chinese search market leader Baidu saw its share price gain 2.62 percent to close at 594.88 dollars.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the United States respects but was “not party” to Google’s decision to redirect Web search queries from mainland China to an uncensored site in Hong Kong.

In Beijing, officials reserved their ire for Google, which lifted censorship of its Chinese search engine,, in response to cyberattacks last year the company said targeted Google code and the email accounts of Chinese rights activists.

“I don’t see it influencing Sino-US relations unless some people want to politicize it,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, describing the Google situation as “mainly an individual commercial case.”

“If you link this to China-US relations or politicize it, or even link it to China’s international image, this is mere overkill,” Qin said. “China’s market is fully open.”

Google said it was “business as usual” at its China headquarters, as a fierce debate erupted online between Chinese defenders of free speech and nationalist-minded net users denouncing foreign interference.

Google spokeswoman Marsha Wang said she had no information about layoffs or a possible transfer of staff to the US giant’s Hong Kong offices, saying only that “adjustments” could be made “according to business demand.”

Despite Google’s promise of uncensored results, searches of politically sensitive key words generated the browser message “cannot display the webpage” — suggesting China’s “Great Firewall” of Internet control remained erect.

Google’s top lawyer David Drummond said the firm was “well aware that (China) could at any time block access to our services.”

Despite Monday’s decision, Drummond said Google plans to maintain its sales and research and development teams in China, which has the world’s largest online population at 384 million.

Google launched in January 2006 after agreeing to censor websites for content banned under Chinese law. is the second-largest search engine in China after Baidu.

A Chinese official in charge of the Internet bureau of the State Council Information Office said that by ending censorship, Google had “violated its written promise” to block controversial search results.

The world’s search leader was “totally wrong” to stop censoring its Chinese-language search engine and to blame Beijing for the alleged hacker attacks, the official said.

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Google stops China censorship, Beijing condemns move

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 5:17 am

 Google stopped censoring search engine results in China in a move that drew anger from Beijing and leaves the Web giant facing an uncertain future in the world’s biggest online market.

Google announced in a blog post that it had shifted mainland Chinese users of its Chinese-language search engine to an uncensored site in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

“Users visiting are now being redirected to, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong,” Google chief legal officer David Drummond said.

While ending censorship in China, the Mountain View, California-based Google said it planned to keep sales, research and development teams in the country of some 384 million Internet users. Chronology: Google’s operations in China

A banner is left on a sidewalk to wish Google well in Hong Kong ( China ) in January 2010.

Google’s decision came a little more than two months after the Internet titan threatened to close its Chinese operations because of censorship and cyberattacks it said originated from China.

China reacted quickly to Google’s move saying it was “totally wrong” for it to stop censorship and to blame Beijing for the cyberattacks that Google said targeted email accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Related article: Google ‘thinks out of box’, say activists

“Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service,” said the official in charge of the Internet bureau of the State Council Information Office.

“We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conduct,” the Chinese official said.

The White House said it was “disappointed” Google could not reach a deal with Beijing and reiterated that US President Barack Obama is “committed to Internet freedom and… opposed to censorship.”

“The US-China relationship is mature enough to sustain differences,” added National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.

Drummond, Google’s top lawyer, said “figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on has been hard.

“We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin told The New York Times that shifting the Chinese service to Hong Kong was not given a clear-cut stamp of approval by Beijing but “there was a sense that Hong Kong was the right step.”

“There’s a lot of lack of clarity,” he said. “Our hope is that the newly begun Hong Kong service will continue to be available in mainland China.”

“The story’s not over yet,” Brin added.

Drummond said “the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”

He said providing uncensored search from Hong Kong is “entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China.” Related article: Google China says ‘business as usual’

Beijing tightly controls online content in a vast system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China,” removing information it deems harmful such as pornography and violent content, but also politically sensitive material.

Google launched in January 2006 after agreeing to censor websites for content banned under Chinese law. is the second-largest search engine in China after Chinese search engine

Google’s decision to end censorship in China was welcomed by human rights and technology groups and members of the US Congress.

“It is a remarkable, and welcomed, action and an important boost of encouragement for millions of Chinese human rights activists and political and religious dissidents,” said US Representative Christopher Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.

Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, called it “an important step to challenge the Chinese government’s use of censorship to maintain its control over its citizens.”

“The onus is now on other major technology companies to take a firm stand against censorship,” Ganesan said.

Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights in China, said Google was throwing the ball in the court of Beijing, which promised to respect freedoms in Hong Kong when it regained the territory in 1997.

“They are technically staying in China but stopping censorship,” she said.

“Google has taken a courageous position against censorship,” said Lucie Morillon of Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders.

Leading Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, who spent nearly two decades in prison and now lives in the United States, said he knew China “would not back down.”

“But we also knew that Google’s motto was ‘Don’t be evil.’ So there was no point on which to compromise,” Wei said.

Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, praised what she called Google’s “continued effort to enable China’s people with unfiltered access to robust sources of information from all over the world.”

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