Bill Gates defends China's 'limited censorship'

But doesn't mention Google by name

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Bill Gates has come out and offered support for China's recent internet actions, but managed to do it without criticising Google by name.

Appearing on the TV show Good Morning America, Gates was asked about the dispute between China and Google which arose when the search giant threatened to stop censorship of its Chinese site following the hacking of email accounts of human rights activists, which it says was conducted by the Chinese government.

In response, the richest man in the world said: "You've got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not? If not, you may not end up doing business there."

According to the former head of Microsoft, "the Chinese efforts to censor the internet have been very limited. It's easy to go around it, and so I think keeping the internet thriving there is very important."

Ballmer speaks too

Gates isn't the only Microsoft big cheese playing down Google's cries of foul. Last Friday Steve Ballmer, the company's Chief Executive, implied that Google had overreacted:

"People are always trying to break into other people's data. There's always somebody trying to break into Microsoft."

He said that Redmond could comply with Chinese Net censorship, stating that "if the Chinese government gives us proper legal notice, we'll take that piece of information out of the Bing search engine."

Google's stance on the Chinese issue has made them the darlings of human rights campaigners. But it's definitely not flavour of the month in Beijing, where a government spokesman adamantly told state news agency Xinhua: "Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that."