Enemy at work on Net, says China

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The Independent Online

The Chinese Communist Party said yesterday that "enemy forces" were attempting to use the internet as a "battlefront to infiltrate us", in the latest indication of official unease at the Web's awkward propensity to disseminate information across borders.

The Chinese Communist Party said yesterday that "enemy forces" were attempting to use the internet as a "battlefront to infiltrate us", in the latest indication of official unease at the Web's awkward propensity to disseminate information across borders.

The commentary in the party flagship, the People's Daily, reiterated President Jiang Zemin's warning last month that the Net was "a key battlefield" in China's "political and ideological struggle".

With e-commerce doubling in 1999, and the number of internet users in China nearly doubling to 17 million in the first half of 2000, the government looks to the Net as an engine of economic growth. Yet its free flow of information, and particularly the degree of foreign involvement, remain politically sensitive issues.

China's Culture Minister recently promised that Peking would increase the "positive education" available on the internet to combat "pornographic, reactionary, violent and deceitful" material.

The new medium has given Peking problems in its attempts to silence critics, although the authorities routinely block access to foreign sites critical of the regime. Since 3 June, police have detained Huang Qi, a Sichuanese who ran a website detailing human-rights abuses, notably the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in the capital. Another website was closed forallowing debate on the democratisation of China.

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