China has launched a new attempt to gag dissent on the internet by targeting chatrooms and news sites.
Websites hosting chatrooms will be held responsible for ensuring that users do not post messages that could be interpreted by the government as "illegal".
That means anything that is against the constitution, threatens state security or "harms China's honour and interests".
The regulations appear to be aimed at curbing increasing boldness in Chinese chatrooms where criticism of government policy has grown.
Websites must seek permission before publishing news from foreign sites
Earlier this year students at Beijing University used a website
to post thousands of messages mourning the murder of a fellow
student which initially criticised security on campus, but later
snowballed into protests about the educational system and drew large
gatherings at the university.
The rules, published in the state-run People's Daily newspaper, also require websites not run by state media to seek approval from the Information Office of the State Council, or cabinet, before they may publish news.
Commercial websites, many foreign-invested, have been battling to attract viewers with increasingly fast and open reporting of a wide range of news, often written by their own reporters or from foreign-based news services.
Now all such websites will be forbidden to report or write news themselves,
and must sign contracts with state media organisations before
using their content.
They must also attribute the sources of articles they publish, the rules state.
Websites are also required to hire a team of editors with
"relevant experience and mid-level or higher expertise",
suggesting they would have to come from major media outlets, all
of which are state owned in China.
News websites must be approved by the state
To publish news from foreign sources, websites must seek
China has already shut down websites tied to the outlawed China
Democracy Party or Falungong spiritual group, and has blocked
access to foreign news sites including the BBC, Yahoo! and CNN.
The rules follow similar regulations issued in January on the
posting of "state secrets" on the internet and regulations guiding
internet content providers issued in October.
The definition of "state secret" in China is so broad that it
could be used to refer to almost any piece of information posted on
the web from China.
The BBC's Beijing correspondent reports that some analysts say the rules may be hard to enforce, while others believe they may further damage the vitality of a sector which is still struggling to make money and has suffered a loss in investor confidence in recent months.
And that is despite the number of internet
users in China doubling in the first eight months of this year to