This is a picture of people laying flowers and making a traditional bow of mourning in front of the Google sign outside Google's Beijing headquarters.
Google's announcement that it will "review" its business operations in China and is no longer willing to censor its Chinese search engine, Google.cn, is generating a range of reaction in China. Conversation over at the #googlecn hashtag on Twitter - created shortly after the announcement - has been raging fast and furious. The Chinese Twittersphere - comprised exclusively of people who are tech savvy enough to know how to get around censorship or they wouldn't be there - is generally cheering the news. Some need no translation, like this one which says: "Google's Do No Evil vs. CPC's Do No.1 Evil"(CPC means "Communist Party of China"). There's a report that the Tsinghua University security department has announced that students can't take flowers to Google without permission. Another person reports that all the Chinese Internet portals have been told by authorities that they're only allowed to use Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily reports on the subject - they're not allowed to use reports from other sources, and they should not feature today's news about Google on the front pages of their sites. Here is a report on how somebody posted a translation of Google's announcement on the Chinese web portal, Netease, and it was censored. One person suggests that leaving China frees up Google to focus on building the anti-censorship business instead of the censorship business. (UPDATE: China Digital Times is doing a running twitter translation here.)
On the other hand, a short Chinese-language report in Sina.com's tech section is generating a long thread of comments from people who are unhappy about Google's announcement because they don't want to lose access to Google. Somebody has set up a website, http://www.googlebacktochina.com/ with a Chinese header that translates approximately as "Give me back my Google." Famous tech blogger Keso mourns that Google's retreat brings the Chinese Internet one step closer to being an Intranet. Sichuan-based dissident Ran Yunfei is also unhappy, likening Google's retreat to a dissident who leaves China compared to one who stays in China and toughs it out.
Another flag-waving constituency is thumbing its nose and saying good riddance.
Google's decision is clearly controversial even among those in China who spend a lot of time fighting censorship, and is devastating to many more who aren't in the habit of using circumvention tools or don't know how.
Google's decision was tough and is going to have a great deal of of difficult fallout. Still, based on what I know, I think Google has done the right thing. They are sending a very public message - which people in China are hearing - that the Chinese government's approach to Internet regulation is unacceptable and poisonous. They are living up to their "don't be evil" motto - much mocked of late - and living up to their commitments to free speech and privacy as a member of the Global Network Initiative.
I will be writing more on this topic soon - but first I must write the two articles I promised to write this evening, which are due in a few hours and not yet started...