By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday asked Alphabet Inc's Google <GOOGL.O> if it will re-enter the Chinese search engine market and if it would comply with China's internet censorship policies upon its return.
Sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, said in a letter they had "serious concerns" about the potential step and asked Google if it would agree to restrict certain words, terms or events in China. The company did not immediately comment on Thursday.
Reuters reported last month Google planned to launch a version of its search engine in China that will block some websites and search terms, two sources said.
Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat and signer of the letter, wrote on Twitter that "Google should not be helping China crack down on free speech and political dissent."
Other signers include Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.
The letter asked if Google would take steps "to ensure that individual Chinese citizens or foreigners living in China, including Americans, will not be surveilled or targeted through Google applications."
The reported plans, which has been criticized by human rights advocates, come as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving U.S. tech firms including Facebook Inc <FB.O> and Apple Inc <AAPL.O>, 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.
Google’s main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.
In January, the search engine joined an investment in Chinese live-stream mobile game platform Chushou, and earlier this month, launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on Tencent Holdings Ltd’s social media app WeChat.
Facebook’s website is also banned in China but the company has also signalled its interest to enter the market.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Steve Orlofsky)