China has pledged to punish hackers who attacked Google if there is evidence to prove it, but said it has yet to receive any complaint from the world's top search engine.
BEIJING (Reuters) – China has pledged to punish hackers who attacked Google if there is evidence to prove it, but said it has yet to receive any complaint from the world's top search engine.
Google sent shockwaves across business and political circles in January when it declared it would stop censoring Chinese search results, and threatened to pull out of China -- the world's largest online community with 384 million users at the end of last year -- over hacking and censorship concerns.
Google had never filed a report to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology over the cyber attacks or sought negotiations, Vice Minister Miao Wei was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua late on Saturday.
"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 said.
"We never support hacking attacks because China also falls victim to hacking attacks," he said.
Google also never informed the ministry that it was planning to withdraw from China, Miao added, speaking on the sidelines of the annual session of parliament.
"If Google decides to continue its business in China and abides by China's laws, it's welcome to stay," he said, vowing to continue providing a sound investment environment for foreign investors and protect their legitimate rights.
"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."
A Google spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Last Friday Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong said China was in consultations with Google to resolve the issue. Li did not elaborate.
The dispute about Internet censorship has added to tensions over issues ranging from trade and the Chinese currency, to U.S. arms sale to self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and a recent meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The hacking issue made headlines again in late February after reports in the Western media that the attacks had been traced to two schools in China, and the writer of the spyware used had been identified as a Chinese security consultant in his 30s with government links.
The Chinese government has denied Google's accusation that the hackers were based in China, calling the claim "groundless.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Bill Tarrant)