China's second largest mobile phone operator will remove Google's search function from new handsets in response to the US Internet giant's tussle with Beijing, the Financial Times reported Thursday.
China Unicom Chairman & CEO Chang Xiaobing speaks during a news conference announcing the company's results in Hong Kong March 24, 2010.
The reported move by China Unicom comes as other Chinese companies appear to be severing ties with Google following its decision Monday to effectively shut down its Chinese search engine over Beijing's tough web censorship.
China Unicom said the search function would be dropped from new phones using Google's Android mobile operating system.
"We are willing to work with any company that abides by Chinese law.... We don't have any cooperation with Google currently," the Financial Times quoted China Unicom president Lu Yimin as saying.
China Unicom could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The FT report gave no indication of whether the company might eventually ditch Android altogether for a different mobile operating system.
But the report does point to wider ramifications for Google from its decision to scale back its China operations, as the country is not only the world's largest online market, but also the world's largest mobile market.
China currently has at least 384 million Internet users, but it has more than 750 million mobile subscribers -- many of whom access web content via their handsets.
In January, shortly after saying it could leave China altogether over web censorship and cyberattacks, Google postponed the launch of Android-based mobile handsets developed with Motorola and Samsung for China Unicom.
China Mobile, the country's biggest cell phone operator, is also likely to cancel a deal to use Google's search engine on its mobile Internet home page, the New York Times reported, citing an unnamed source in the media industry.
The report said the company was scrapping the agreement due to government pressure. Officials at China Mobile were not immediately available to comment.
At the end of January, China Mobile had 532.9 million subscribers, and China Unicom had 150.5 million, according to government data.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong-listed TOM Group -- owned by the city's richest man Li Ka-shing -- cut links to Google's search services on its web portal, saying it needed to adhere to Chinese rules and regulations.