One of China's top propaganda officials has urged lawmakers to push through tough legislation to stop "hostile forces" abroad using the Internet to achieve their aims, state press said Tuesday.

China needed laws that would step up monitoring for "harmful information" and block "overseas hostile forces from infiltrating through the Internet," Wang Chen, vice head of propaganda, told lawmakers last week.

The measures would help enhance an ongoing crackdown on online pornography, gambling and fraud, Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

China's online population, already the largest in the world, reached 404 million last week, accounting for almost a third of the country's people, official data showed.

The government in Beijing operates an extensive system of Internet censorship - sometimes dubbed the "Great Firewall of China" - aimed at filtering out any information deemed politically sensitive or harmful.

China's web users have nevertheless turned the Internet into a forum for citizens to express their opinions - some of them anti-government - in a way rarely seen in a country where the traditional media is under strict control.

Wang, who also heads the cabinet's information office, further urged the National People's Congress to adopt an "Internet Administration Law," the Southern Daily reported.

The parliament should amend the nation's criminal and civil laws to better define illegal activity on the Internet, while also better defining rules on the administration of the mobile phone industry, it said.

Last Thursday, China tightened its controversial state secrets law, holding Internet and mobile phone operators responsible for informing on their customers.

The law, which has in the past been used to jail high-profile dissidents, stipulates that Internet and mobile phone operators must cooperate with the demands of the police, reports said.

Wang said the key to the nation's Internet laws must lie in the registration of Internet and mobile phone users, allowing for the government to identify those passing on illegal information, the Southern Daily said.