BEIJING/SAN FRANCISCO – Alphabet Inc’s Google plans to launch a version of its search engine in China that will block some websites and search terms, two sources said, in a move that could mark its return to a market it abandoned eight years ago on censorship concerns.

The plan comes even as China has stepped up scrutiny into business dealings involving US tech firms including Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Google, which quit China’s search engine market in 2010, has been actively seeking ways to re-enter China where many of its products are blocked by regulators.

The Intercept earlier reported Google’s China plans on Wednesday, citing internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.

The project is code named “Dragonfly” and has been underway since the spring of 2017, the news website said.

Progress on the project picked up after a December meeting between Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, it added.

Search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests will be among the words blacklisted in the search engine app, which The Intercept said had already been demonstrated to the Chinese government.

The finalised version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials, it added.

Chinese state-owned Securities Times, however, said reports of the return of Google’s search engine to China were not true, citing information from “relevant departments”.

But a Google employee familiar with the censored version of the search engine confirmed to Reuters that the project was alive and genuine.

On an internal message board, the employee wrote: “In my opinion, it is just as bad as the leak article mentions.”

The worker, who declined to be named, said that he had seen slides on the effort and that many executives at the vice president level were aware of it. He said he had…

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