BEIJING - It is up to Google to decide whether to withdraw from China or continue to stay, Li Yizhong, minister of industry and information technology, said Friday.
Li made the remarks in response to questions about Google's suspenseful "quiting China" claim at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual parliament session.
Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, said in January it was considering leaving China because of censoring requirements and alleged hacker attacks.
However, there had been no major actions or further comments from Google until its vice president Nicole Wong urged the U.S. Congress Wednesday in a hearing to put pressure on countries scrutinizing Internet contents, saying the company was firm in the decision to "stop censoring our search results for China" and that it was "prepared" to leave the country if that was the option.
"If Google decides to stay in China, we welcome and it will help boost the development of the country's Internet industry," Li said. "The company is welcome to expand its business and market share in the country."
"If it decides to quit, we will follow our procedures," he said, adding that Google's quit, if it does so, will have no major influence on China's Internet market, which will continue its fast expansion momentum.
The company, which entered China in 2007, now accounts for more than 30 percent of the country's search engine market, according to Li.
"I hope Google can abide by China's laws and regulations," he said. "It is irresponsible and unfriendly if Google insists in doing something that goes against China's laws and regulations, and it will have to bear the consequence for doing so."
The minister said China's Internet environment is open and administered in line with the country's laws. "Internet administration is not a special case in China as all countries regulate networks according to their own laws."