With expert timing, the Chinese government has knocked the wind out of Google by saying for the first time that the search giant's belief that it was hacked from within China is "groundless". The news comes just as it looked as if US investigators had identified the person it believed hacked Google's systems.
It was claimed that the writer of the spyware was a security consultant in his 30s and that Chinese officials subsequently picked up the code. It was also claimed that Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang vocational college - one of which is tied to the Chihese military - were also involved in some way with the attacks, although both denied the accusation.
Reuters reported Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen, as saying: "Google's statement from January 12 is groundless, and we are firmly opposed to it."
The statement marks the first time the Chinese government has directly disagreed with Google's version of events over the attack and Qin Gang also took the opportunity to defended China's stance against hacking and piracy.
"China administers its internet according to law, and this position will not change. China prohibits hacking and will crack down on hacking according to law."
The move will no doubt irk Google, but will also be seen as something of a slap in the face by those in Washington too, after the US government had made veiled threats against the Chinese governments for its stance on censorship and privacy, and called for an outright review into the allegations.
Speaking in January Hilary Clinton said: "We are urging US media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance."
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that talks between Google and the Chinese government had restarted after the New Year break and Qin Gang said that, "relevant officials are having smooth communication with relevant internet companies."
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