The money-rich capitalists at, and Yahoo, Inc., and the young millionaires at Google never let freedom of speech or “do what’s right” interfere with making more money.

Google’s decision to launch a censored version of its search engine in China–aimed at keeping step with rivals and Yahoo–brings into question how businesses should conduct themselves when dealing with oppressive regimes.

These Internet search-engine pros, whose electronic marvels guide us to a subject, locale, news or information, caved into the Chinese government’s banning of certain sites in order to open shop in the land of 1 billion-plus people.

China’s government is very sensitive to the slightest criticism. They prefer to carry on business in the dark of night and not burden the people with their secret ways of ruling the country.

Within minutes of the launch of the new site bearing China’s Web suffix “.cn,” searches in China for the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement showed scores of sites omitted. Users were instead directed to articles condemning the group posted on Chinese-government Web sites.

Now when anyone in China uses the Internet to search for what the government considers sensitive subjects–such as the exiled Tibetan leader (Dalai Lama) or anything to do with Taiwan independence–they get nowhere. Or they could get arrested for even trying to look up such sites.

Write in “democracy” or “human rights” and the search engine goes nowhere.

Giving freedom of information is verboten in China, and Google inventors went along with Chinese government demands.

There is a saying: “You can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make ’em biscuits.” (Translation: “You can say whatever you want about something, but that doesn’t change what it is.”)

And this money-making deal for the Americans is anything but a good deal for the people of China. Call it by any other name, but these American Internet providers are submitting to China’s censorship regime.

Google is proud of this new arrangement, because it makes their search engine more accessible in China, and it makes them more money. But to get in they had to go along with the government gag order that does not want the full truth to be known.

Julien Pain of Reporters Without Borders said: “When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet.”

News reports say Google hopes to avoid the bad publicity Yahoo received last year after it provided the government with the e-mail-account information of a Chinese journalist who was later convicted of violating state secrecy laws.

Of all our freedoms, none is more important and in peril today than the freedom of the press and information. When any government officials take actions without the citizens being aware, you can bet the said actions are bad for the country.

For those in America who say secrecy is good–let the government decide everything; after all, we are at war–I say baloney to such thinking. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with a war on terror. Thanks to the Bush administration, terrorism will be with us for the rest of this century. Terrorism cannot be stopped by force. No matter how precise the rocket-bombs and bullets, they cannot penetrate and destroy ideas.

Britt Towery is a retired Southern Baptist missionary who served in China. His column appears weekly in the Brownsville Herald in Brownsville, Texas. Click here to visit Towery’s Web site.

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