Google's action Monday to move its Chinese search engine function from the mainland to Hong Kong to avoid government control of content deserves high praise.
It is a case in which a company is risking its profit in China, a huge and growing market, in the name of an important principle -- the free flow of information.
It is astonishing that the government of China, a country on a quest in recent years for both economic success and an international reputation as a great power, would try to impose unreasonable limits on not only a global company like Google, but also on its own people. Typically, countries that permit, and even facilitate, their people's ability to obtain and exchange information freely are the ones that prosper. Those that try to keep their citizens in a closed box inevitably see their most creative people emigrate and their societies suffer as a result.
It must have been a tough decision for Google. The company, in a highly competitive market in which it had gained an estimated one-third share since it arrived in China in 2006, plans to continue its research and development activities and retain a sales team on the mainland. It is possible that the Chinese government, which has reacted with "dissatisfaction and anger" at Google's action, will now take steps to shut down the company's search engine capacity on Hong Kong. Different rules operate to a degree in Hong Kong, but the territory has been under Chinese sovereignty since 1997. China already blocks the search engines of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
The Chinese government continues to show itself to have a thin skin on certain subjects, as seen by its human rights abuses and the opposition to its authority of Tibetans and Uighurs, based on religion and politics. Nonetheless, it makes a mistake in trying to impose general isolation on its people in an effort to keep information out of reach through clamps on the Internet.
Google's courage should be commended. Americans and Chinese both have a right to be "feeling lucky," to borrow a line from Google's homepage, in this case.