Google says it is in talks with the Chinese government about its online map product, which could be penalised in China due to new state laws.
"We're in discussions with the government about how we could offer a maps product in China," Google said in a statement on Thursday. The company would not elaborate on those discussions.
The US search giant provided the comment as a deadline for its Google Maps product passed in China. The Chinese government has instituted new rules, stating that all companies providing online maps must be granted a state licence. Companies that did not meet the first deadline, March 31, will be exposed to the public, according to authorities.
Companies still without a licence on the second deadline, July 1, will face prosecution from the Chinese government.
Google had previously said it was studying the new state rules on online mapping, with no mention of whether it would apply for the licence.
China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping said in an email that as of March 28, it had not received an application from Google to apply for the required licence. The bureau has not responded to further questions about what potential penalties Google could face if it operated without a licence.
China, however, often blocks websites that do not conform to regulations, some of which extend to the country's strict rules on the censorship of politically sensitive topics. Already Google's YouTube and Blogger products have been blocked in China. Google has also recently said Gmail is being blocked by the Chinese government, which authorities deny.
Google Maps appeared to be accessible on Friday morning in China.
China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping also issued a statement in March, saying it would take action against illegal online maps operating in the country. Online maps with excessive violations will be closed, the statement said.