Internet giant Google, which has agreed to block politically sensitive items on its new China site, rejected Chinese newspaper reports on Tuesday that the new platform does not have the correct license.
The Beijing News reported on Tuesday that Google.cn, the recently launched service that accommodates China's censorship demands, has not obtained the Internet content provider (ICP) license needed to operate Internet content services in China.
The Ministry of Information Industry, which regulates China's Internet, was "concerned" and investigating the problem, the paper said.
"Under China's policy framework for the Internet, Google.cn is clearly unlawful," said the China Business Times.
A Google spokeswoman said the newspaper reports were groundless. "Google has the required license to operate the Google.cn service in China," she said in an emailed statement.
Google used the ICP license of another, local company, Ganji.com, under a business partnership — a practice followed by many international Internet companies in China. The license number is displayed at the bottom of the Google.cn screen.
Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc. have similar license arrangements.
The official spokesman for the ministry was not available for comment. But another official in his office, surnamed Wang, said, "We're aware of the problem. It was raised long ago."
He said the ministry would offer a statement on the issue some time later, possibly on Wednesday, and refused to say anything more about the matter or whether officials had raised it with Google.
The Chinese government blocks foreign investors from directly operating Internet services in China.
Foreign investors have usually become minority shareholders in joint ventures with local Internet companies, or signed deals so the foreign investor receives payment for technical support to a Chinese client.
Google has weathered recent criticism from United States lawmakers and Chinese dissidents for accepting Chinese censors' demands that its new Chinese service block links about sensitive topics, such as the 1989 anti-government protests in Tiananmen Square.
But the China Business Times, a business paper with a sometimes nationalist slant, blasted Google for even telling users that links are censored.
"Does a business operating in China need to constantly tell customers that it's abiding by the laws of the land?" it said, adding that Google had "incited" a debate about censorship.
The paper likened Google to "an uninvited guest" telling a dinner host "the dishes don't suit his taste, but he's willing to eat them as a show of respect to the host".