- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

SHANGHAI (AP) — Authorities have ordered all China-based Web sites and blogs to register or be closed down, in the latest effort by the Communist government to police the world of cyberspace.

Commercial publishers and advertisers face fines of up to $120,000 for failing to register, according to documents posted on the Web site of the Ministry of Information Industry.

Private, noncommercial bloggers or Web sites must register the complete identity of the person responsible for the site, it said. The ministry, which has set a June 30 deadline for compliance, reported that 74 percent of all sites already had registered.

“The Internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people’s spirits,” the ministry Web site stated in explaining the rules, which were quietly introduced in March.

All public media in China is controlled by the state, though limits on the Internet have tended to lag as advances in technology and the Web’s rapid spread outstripped Beijing’s ability to keep tabs on users and service providers.

China has more than 87 million Internet users, the world’s second-largest online population after the United States.

The government has long required all major commercial Web sites to register and take responsibility for Internet content — at least 54 persons have been jailed for posting essays or other content deemed subversive.

But blogs, online diaries, muckraking Web sites and dissident publishing have been harder to police. According to cnblog.org, a Chinese Web log host company, the country has about 700,000 such sites.

Now, however, the government has developed a new system to track down and close those caught violating the rules, the ministry stated.

“There’s a ‘Net Crawler System’ that will monitor the sites in real time and search each Web address for its registration number,” said one document listing questions and answers about the new rules. “It will report back to the MII if it finds a site thought to be unregistered.”

The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders protested the new rules, saying they would force people with dissenting opinions to shift Web sites overseas. As a result, mainland Chinese users might not be able to access them because of government censorship filters.

The Paris-based group said that in May many bloggers in China received e-mail messages to register to avoid having their blogs declared illegal.

“Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist Party’s propaganda,” the rights group said. “This decision will enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively.”

The latest restrictions follow many others. Authorities have closed down thousands of Internet cafes — the main entry to the Web for many Chinese unable to afford a computer or Internet access. They also have installed surveillance cameras and begun requiring visitors to Shanghai Internet cafes to register using their official identity cards — all in an effort to keep tabs on who is seeing and saying what online.


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