Leading internet search company Google has agreed to censor some of its services in China in order to satisfy Beijing’s restrictions on free speech.
Google hopes the new web address for China will boost its access to one of the world’s largest internet markets.
The company says the decision to censor content was hard, but says it has more influence if it is present in China.
Critics warn the censored version could restrict access to thousands of terms and web sites for Chinese users.
Topics which may be blocked include independence for Taiwan and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Google’s move in China comes less than a week after it resisted efforts by the US Department of Justice to make it disclose data on what people were searching for.
Google has offered a Chinese-language version of its search engine through its US-based system for several years.
However, users in China have often been frustrated as government controls have blocked the service or slowed response times.
Google hopes its new address will make the search engine easier to use.
Its e-mail, chat room and blogging services will not be available because of concerns the government could demand users’ personal information.
Officials said they planned to notify users when access had been restricted on certain search terms.
The company argues it can play a more useful role in China by participating than by boycotting it, despite the compromises involved.
“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission,” a statement said.
Julian Pain, internet spokesman for campaign group Reporters Without Borders, said Google’s decision to “collaborate” with the Chinese government was “a real shame”.
The number of internet search users in China is predicted to increase from about 100 million currently to 187 million in two years’ time.
A survey last August revealed Google was losing market share to Beijing-based rival Baidu.com.