In a long-awaited announcement, Google said Monday that it will stop censoring search services on google.cn, its Chinese search site.
Google said it is now redirecting its Chinese users to Hong Kong site google.com.hk, which offers uncensored search results, according to its company blog.
"We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement," the company said in its blog post.
The company said it "very much hopes" that the government of China respects its decision, though it is "well aware" that the Chinese authorities could block access to its services for users within the country's borders.
Google will continue its wider business operations in China, including its ad sales business, though the search company conceded that the size of its sales workforce will be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access google.com.hk.
In addition to search, Google generates revenue from an ad sales business in China, its Android mobile phone operating system and its Chrome browser business. It also runs a host of Web services in China, including e-mail service Gmail.
Analysts widely agree with Google's assessment that discontinuing its¬† search operations in China would have an "immaterial" effect on its revenue.¬†
Google.cn had tens of millions of users in China, but was unable to control¬† more than about a third of China's search market as it struggled to beat the¬† tough competition of entrenched search rivals such as Baidu.