Google is checking whether any of its China staff helped hackers lead a major cyberattack against the US Internet giant, which is now mulling whether to leave the country, a report said Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources, said the internal network access of some of Google's 700-odd employees in China had been cut off for the duration of the internal investigation.
It was not immediately clear if Google had found evidence to link any of its China-based staff to either the theft of its intellectual property or alleged attempts to access Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents.
Google said Monday it was "business as usual" in China and its employees were at work, after local media reports that some staff had seen their access to Google's global network cut off and could no longer work.
The company last week announced it was considering abandoning its Chinese search engine, and could shut its China offices, over theft of its intellectual property by hackers, believed to have been based in China.
Google says it is no longer willing to bow to Chinese Internet censors by filtering search results on google.cn, but is still seeking talks with Beijing on a solution.
The United States has asked for an explanation from Beijing over the Google dispute. China says the row will not affect Sino-US ties, but has also insisted that Google and other foreign Internet firms must obey its laws.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said Monday that expatriate journalists in a "few" bureaus in Beijing had discovered that their Gmail accounts had been hacked, with messages forwarded to a stranger's account.
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