BEIJING — A letter demanding that Google compensate advertising agents if it withdrew from China probably is not genuine, said a sales official at one of the companies named as a signatory.
The letter, published Tuesday on the Web site of the state-run China Central Television and received by Google, is “likely a fake,” said Gao Min, who is in charge of Google ad sales at Beijing Zoom Interactive Media.
Shenzhen Winkee Networking, also included among the 27 partners CCTV tied to the letter, denied signing it.
Feng Mingming, the sales representative in charge of Google ads at Shenzhen Winkee, said, “I have checked with the head of the company and other relevant officials and found out we haven’t sent or signed any such letter.”
Of the 22 companies reached by Bloomberg News on Wednesday, none confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
The letter posted on CCTV’s Web site demanded that Google, the U.S. Internet company, disclose plans to compensate agents who rely on Google, as well as their workers and customers. The letter was addressed to John Liu, Google’s vice president of sales for greater China.
“The fact that somebody has organized such a large group of independent companies together into an alliance seems quite implausible,” said Isaac Mao, a former fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Google said two months ago that it would stop censoring Web results in China, in defiance of Chinese law, even if that would require the company to shut down its Web site in the country.
Google’s fate in China may be decided this month as Internet service licenses there come up for renewal.
Google has received the letter and is reviewing it, a spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, said Tuesday.
All Internet service providers in China must have their licenses reviewed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in March, though the agency may extend the reviews for some companies into April, Shawn Zhao, Google’s managing counsel for greater China, said in Hong Kong after speaking at a legal industry conference Tuesday.
Jessica Powell, a spokeswoman in Tokyo for Google, declined to say Tuesday whether Google planned to renew its license.
The conflict has raised concerns about the treatment of foreign firms operating in the country.
“All the multinationals face a lot more pressure compared with local companies,” Elinor Leung, the head of telecommunications and Internet research at CLSA in Hong Kong, said in January.
“If you go against the government, it’s not going to make your life easy.”
Google’s possible withdrawal would have no bearing on the overall environment for foreign companies operating in China, and would be an “individual business act,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said Tuesday.
“It will not undermine China’s investment environment or most of the foreign companies including U.S. companies’ business in China,” Mr. Qin said at a news briefing in Beijing.