China: July 7, 2002

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China now has some 35 million people using the Internet and this is making the government very nervous. Most people access the net via Internet cafes.. There are some 200,000 of these in the country, of which 77 percent are not registered (making them vulnerable to police demands for bribes to avoid closure.) The government is now demanding that all the legal cafes re-register and install filtering software that will block user access to over 500,000 foreign websites considered politically incorrect for Chinese citizens. ISPs are being pressured to engage in more self-censorship, meaning they are expected to watch carefully what goes on in chat rooms and web sites hosted by the ISP. The government is particularly upset at the speed with which news spreads on the Internet and the successful use of the net by dissident groups. The government feels it has nothing to lose and something to gain by at least trying to censor the web. China realizes that it cannot suppress the web, as the Internet has become essential for keeping Chinese technical experts up to date, and more businesses, and even government agencies, are using the web to conduct their affairs.

 

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