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China Opens State-Controlled Internet Search Site


People use computers at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province, China. (FILE)

People use computers at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province, China. (FILE)

China's state-run news agency has introduced a new Internet search engine that critics say exemplifies the government's extensive system of online censorship.

The Xinhua news agency launched the new site, www.panguso.com, Tuesday in conjunction the state-owned phone company China Mobile.

A few quick searches on the website show it is designed to direct users to websites and articles that reflect the Chinese government's point of view.

In one search, a query for news about the Dalai Lama produces mostly criticism of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who China considers to be a dangerous separatist.

A Chinese information official quoted by Xinhua says Panguso should provide "healthy" products for Internet users, and that it should "work to limit the spread of illegal information such as pornography and violence."

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders say China's system of Internet censorship "has developed into a tool for political control." The group says China regularly blocks websites it deems subversive, and arrests dissidents who challenge the government online.

Critics have dubbed China's extensive online filtering system the "Great Firewall of China."

When the Internet company Google decided last year to redirect its Chinese business to Hong Kong to avoid censorship in Beijing, it said it could no longer tolerate China's blocking of websites such as Youtube and Facebook.

Neither Youtube nor Facebook show up in a search on Panguso. And while the website for the The New York Times newspaper is easy to find, there is no link for VOA.

China has more than 450 million Internet users, and is a considered a huge market for online companies.

The Chinese search engine Baidu had the dominant share of the search market last year, with 75 percent. Google was second with just under 20 percent of the market.

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