Sydney Morning Herald: Beijing plays big brother on the net
May 7, 2004
Chinese authorities say they have shut down more than 8600 unlicensed internet cafes in the last three months in their latest campaign to bring the communication channel under tighter political control.
Ostensibly, the crackdown is to protect teenagers from long internet benders playing combat games and the like. The case of two middle school pupils in Chongqing, who fell asleep on a railway line and were run over on March 31 following a 48-hour internet session, is being cited.
But preventing customers from gaining access to "unhealthy information online" is also a concern behind the drive against unauthorised public internet venues, which was launched in February and will run until August, says the agency that licences internet cafes.
Preventing anonymous access to the internet from cafes has been one prong of Beijing's drive to remove the political power of the internet for the past 18 months, although the excuse has always been the fire risk and protecting juveniles from abuse
Licensed cafes are obliged to log in all customers with their official identity cards, keep records of all websites looked at, and in some cases have security cameras looking over the shoulder of each customer.
The other prong is a force of internet police, thought to number about 40,000, who operate filters that block access to sensitive sites dealing with issues like Taiwan, human rights, Tibet, and the banned Falun Gong meditation group. New software filters trawl through the emails of China's estimated 80 million internet users, picking up suspicious keywords.
But the volume of internet messaging may be overwhelming the net police. As soon as they are shut down, political critics are managing to find ways of reopening chatrooms and websites.
Category: Falun Dafa in the Media