CHINESE CHECKERS

Last week was a strange one for most of Hong Kong's Internet surfers. They had to get to know their families again and rediscover the joys of television, thanks to police raids that shut down six of the seven Internet service providers in the colony.

On Thursday, six days after the raids, the companies were told they could collect their equipment, but the police are retaining electronic and paper records. The ostensible reason for the cyberbust was the operators' failure to pay a HK$700 (£56) licence fee, even though the authorities say it is uncertain whether they need to.

There are concerns that the authorities are playing to China's tune. The Internet has the potential to undermine the most draconian censorship, because anyone with a computer and phone line can tap into it to find alternative views of the world.

Non-conspiracy theorists say it is simply because SuperNet, which does hold a licence, has been complaining that it is being undercut. It charges customers HK$25 (£2) an hour for daytime usage and half that for off-peak hours, compared with HK$6-HK$8 charged by the newcomers.

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