posted on Sep, 5 2002 @ 10:43 AM
China Increases Censorship of Internet
Friday, Aug. 2, 2002
SHANGHAI, China ñ Strict new rules on Internet publishing in China went into effect Thursday. Authorities moved to silence dissent and political
criticism ahead of this year's 16th Communist Party Congress, when an entire generation of leaders will step down.
The new regulations, a copy of which was obtained by United Press International, ban material that "threatens national unity, divulges state secrets
or fuels ethnic hatred or discrimination."
Electronic versions of published books, newspapers, periodicals, and audio and video products, as well as original literature, art, and material
related to science and technology, social sciences and engineering, are listed in the government circular as subject to close scrutiny by authorities.
Internet publishers caught disobeying the guidelines will have to pay hefty fines or be shut down.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Information Technology, who gave only his surname, Chen, said the rules were created because Internet portals were
caught disobeying previous laws on content. The government wants people to use the Internet "in a civilized manner," he said.
"Some Internet service providers have been hosting Web sites that carry content which is contrary to the government's regulations," Chen said. "We
plan to get tough with violators this time around."
The move comes amid a major crackdown on Internet cafes and a voluntary pledge signed by at least 130 Internet companies in March to cooperate with
authorities in censoring online content. Beijing intensified its crackdown on Web cafes after a deadly fire killed 25 people in the capital last
month. Critics claim the government is using the incident to limit online access.
Authorities have ordered Internet cafes to install software that can block 500,000 blacklisted, overseas Web sites and track the movements of surfers
who attempt to access them.
Tool for Dissent
The Internet has become an increasingly powerful medium for political dissent and discourse in China, the world's second-largest online community
with nearly 50 million Web users. Chinese-language Web sites have bloomed over the past few years. Efforts to control the content of what is published
have met with limited success.
Officials from the Public Security Bureau have been carrying out inspections of Internet service providers, as well as foreign companies and news
organizations. For example, officials paid a visit to the Shanghai bureau of United Press International on Wednesday. They wanted to know if the news
agency, headquartered in Washington, was using local servers to publish news on China.
Industry sources said the nationwide crackdown was meant to curb discussion of sensitive political issues while Beijing worked out the final details
of leadership changes for the congress.
"The Communist Party views the Internet as a threat to its hold on power," said Peter Cheung, an Internet consultant in Hong Kong. "The new rules
indicate they're very concerned about it."
Copyright 2002 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.