China’s top Internet search engine,, censured for allegedly spreading racy photos

HONG KONG (AP) — China’s top Internet search engine,, has been censured by a government-sponsored Web watchdog for allegedly helping spread sexually explicit photos that appear to feature several Hong Kong stars.

The photos, which appear to show actor Edison Chen and several female stars performing sex acts or in sexually suggestive poses, are believed to have originated in Hong Kong and have been widely circulated here. News of the scandal has dominated Hong Kong headlines for several weeks.

China, however, keeps tighter watch over the Internet than semiautonomous Hong Kong, and the government-sponsored Beijing Association of Online Media said in a statement on its Web site Tuesday Baidu helped spread the racy pictures in the mainland.

The group said certain key word searches and certain pages on the Baidu site “have become the platform for displaying and spreading these filthy pictures,” demanding that the Web site apologize for its actions.

“While other Beijing Internet companies have boycotted the spread of the racy photos, Baidu still hasn’t implemented effective blocking and obscuring of the photos, and has become defensive and procrastinated, leading to the stagnation of a large amount of pornographic, filthy pictures,” the watchdog said in the statement dated Monday.

Meanwhile, the group praised other Chinese Web sites, such as, and for urging its users not to spread the photos.

Baidu said it didn’t have immediate comment on the accusations.

China bans pornography, although the government’s Internet police struggle to block pornographic Web sites based abroad.

The government regularly censors and restricts access to content it considers subversive or politically sensitive, and Chinese Web sites often hire their own censors to eliminate certain content.

China’s online population has soared to 210 million people and could surpass the United States this year to become the world’s biggest, the official China Internet Network Information Center said last month.

China recently said it wanted to exert more control over Internet videos and video-sharing Web sites.