The United States will issue an official protest to the Chinese government over a major espionage attack targeting Google's computer systems and rights activists' e-mail accounts that the search-engine giant said originated in China.
"We will be issuing a formal demarche to the Chinese government in Beijing on this issue in the coming days, probably early next week," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday.
The diplomatic message will "express our concern for this incident" and seek an explanation, he said. The move may signal a shift for an administration that has been reluctant, according to China experts, to press sensitive issues such as human rights, lest it offend a country whose cooperation it seeks in other areas.
On Tuesday, in a rare disclosure by a major firm, Google announced that its "corporate infrastructure" had been hacked and its intellectual property stolen. It said that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists in China, Europe and the United States were also penetrated and noted that other large companies were targeted, as well. Industry sources said 34 firms, including Google, were affected.