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News Analysis: Internet a mixed blessing to Chinese government
Latest Updated by 2006-04-17 10:09:45
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News Analysis: Internet a mixed blessing to Chinese government

With 111 million Internet users -- 11 percent of the world's total and rising -- China is facing an unprecedented quandary on how to regulate the new medium and perceptions abroad of government controls.


Last week, China's central news websites, including, Xinhuanet and, backed a proposal by major Beijing-based portals for self-censorship and the eradication of pornographic and violent content.


"No indecent textd or photos, no search engines for such content, no links to indecent websites, and no games involving sex and violence," promised the 14 portals.


The government has closed a large number of domestic websites containing illegal materials. From September to November last year, public security authorities shut down 598 porn sites and wiped out 35 porn domain names, according the Ministry of Public Security.


The government holds "indecent material" could harm children and menace social stability. The crackdown, however, has sparked criticism from abroad.


The "Massage Cream" weblog, run by Chinese journalist Wang Xiaofeng, was temporarily closed in March, carrying a notice that said: "Because of unavoidable reasons known to all, this blog is temporarily closed."


Foreign news organizations soon reported that Wang's blog was closed by the government.


Wang later confirmed he had closed the blog himself to see what the reaction would be, claiming that it just confirmed prejudices against the government.


The authorities claim their regulation is in strict compliance with law, but on Friday Premier Wen Jiabao said that the public was demanding Internet companies improve their self-discipline and self-regulation.


"Websites should convey accurate information, rather than mislead people and disrupt social order," he added.


The government has sought to show a positive attitude towards the net.


During the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, President and Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary Hu Jintao made the first public statement by a Chinese leader on the Internet, saying, "I have seen good advice on the Internet (to combat SARS)."


Premier Wen has since said, "As the people's government, we should be subject to the democratic will of the people, and listen to the numerous viewpoints on the Internet."


During this year's annual session of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), more than 30,000 Internet users voted on the topics that concerned them most. The top three issues were corruption, the widening gap between rich and poor, and arbitrary education fees.


A survey last year by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found 62.8 percent of users thought the Internet could help raise political awareness and 60.4 percent thought it could guide government officials on public opinion.


NPC deputy Zhou Hongyu has his own blog on the site run by the People's Daily.


"With this blog, I'll be better able to listen to the general public and learn about their daily lives. It will help me fulfill my duties as an NPC deputy," Zhou, a vocal proponent of educational reform, writes in his introduction.


Tang Weihong, editor of the website, said that all NPC deputies and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, were free to have blogs on the website.


"They have to go through an identity verification process, of course," she said.


President of the People's Daily website He Jiazheng said, "Some ministries have even asked us to invite public opinion on certain issues that concern the CPC, the state and society at large, including the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection."


Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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