China may have targeted Google after one senior Chinese official found critical information about himself when using the search engine, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website.
According to the 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, there were discussions on the pressure by the Chinese government to censor Google's Chinese website, with suggestions that the "root of the problem" was an official of China's Politburo standing committee.
The New York Times identified the official as Li Changchun, China’s senior propaganda official.
According to the cable, the senior member had "recently discovered that Google's worldwide site is uncensored, and is capable of Chinese language searches and search results." It said the politician "allegedly entered his own name and found results critical of him."
The cable also noted that the official wanted Google to remove a link to the uncensored google.com site from its sanitized Chinese version, google.cn, and that he reportedly believed that google.com was an "illegal site."
As well, the cable noted, the government had ordered three telecommunications companies to stop doing business with the company.
Google eventually pulled out of China shortly after its servers were hacked, revealing the email accounts of Chinese dissidents.
In another development, the online payment service provider PayPal cut off the account WikiLeaks used to collect donations on Saturday, accusing the website of engaging in illegal activities.
PayPal said in a blog posting that cutting off the account was prompted by a violation of the service provider's policy, "which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity."
The WikiLeaks website also collects donations through the mail at an Australian post office box, through bank transfers to accounts in Switzerland, Germany or Iceland, as well as through one "credit card processing partner" in Switzerland.
To deal with the flood of traffic, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon.com's web-hosting facility. But Amazon booted WikiLeaks from the site on Wednesday after U.S. congressional staffers started asking the company about its relationship with WikiLeaks.
The U.S. is conducting a criminal investigation into the release of the diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.