Beijing puts clamp on internet access

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The Independent Online

Some countries might shirk from the mammoth task of monitoring 20 million cybersurfers cruising more than 16,000 websites. But with the release of more internet regulations yesterday, the Chinese government confirmed it has yet to shed its Big Brother mentality. The new rules enforce censorship of both online news and the chat Chinese people swap online.

Some countries might shirk from the mammoth task of monitoring 20 million cybersurfers cruising more than 16,000 websites. But with the release of more internet regulations yesterday, the Chinese government confirmed it has yet to shed its Big Brother mentality. The new rules enforce censorship of both online news and the chat Chinese people swap online.

Beijing issued the latest restrictions on the eve of today's inaugural "Journalists Day", an official festival meant to promote the media's image as the public watchdog. Yet the limits laid down yesterday provide a timely reminder of who sets the news agenda in the People's Republic.

Websites in China are forbidden from writing their own news reports and can source news items only from approved state media outlets. In addition they must register all chatroom visitors and bulletin board users, and report and delete all "illegal" content.

While Chinese reformists stress the economic benefits of the internet - greater communication and information exchange across the great land mass - conservatives decry its advance as a challenge to Chinese sovereignty.

When China's rubber-stamp parliament discussed stricter controls on the internet two weeks ago, Yu Enguang, a member of its foreign affairs committee, railed against "hostile foreign forces" who use the Net for "reactionary activities and sabotage, and to publicise what the West calls 'democracy' and 'human rights'." Authorities have routinely blocked access to foreign websites carrying politically sensitive content, although computer-savvy Chinese are well versed in proxy servers.

More than 20 provinces and cities have established internet police to "administrate and maintain order" on China's booming networks.

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