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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
China acts on net 'addicts'
Chinese police at computer screen
Chinese police want to monitor internet activity
By Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai

The Chinese authorities have shut down almost 2,000 internet cafes and ordered another 6,000 to suspend their operations because of concerns over the influence of the internet on teenagers.

China gets online
2001: 26.5 million internet users
Up 300% from 8.9 million in 1999
53% are aged 18-30
39% are women
One-third of use is for leisure
68% have never made an online purchase
The move comes at the end of a three-month inspection across China of almost 60,000 cyber cafes, after parents complained that their children were becoming addicted to online chatrooms and computer games available at the cafes .

The government had already expressed alarm over the popularity of pornographic websites and the availability of material it considers subversive.

For many young people, internet cafes provide the best way to get online in a country where home computers are still relatively rare.

Teenage threat

Net surfers
Parents say their children are becoming net addicts
But state media have published frequent complaints from anxious parents whose teenage children have stayed out for days and nights.

China's official news agency said that, since April around 57,000 internet cafes had been inspected.

Nearly 2,000 had been shut down and at least 6,000 ordered to suspend business and make changes.

Security software

Experts say such changes include installing software which allows local police to monitor which websites are being accessed from a cafe's computers.

Requirements for internet cafe owners to hold a licence are also being more strictly enforced and some cities have banned new cafes from opening close to schools.

Figures released this week show China's internet users grew by around four million in the first half of this year to over 26 million.

'Superstition and pornography'

Yet, while even primary schools are now increasingly teaching internet skills, concerns about content were highlighted this month by President Jiang Zemin.

He called for reinforced legislation against what he described as superstition, pornography, violence and pernicious information on the internet.

The Chinese Government continues to block websites operated by some foreign media organisations as well as those of dissident groups and the banned Falun Gong movement.

But officials acknowledge it is almost impossible to filter out all unwelcome information.

The BBC's Ania Lichtarowicz
"Avoiding the measures... will not be too difficult"
See also:

18 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
China internet growth slows
29 Apr 01 | Media reports
China internet cafe debate hots up
02 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
China tightens internet controls
23 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China fights game arcades
09 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China to battle internet 'enemies'
21 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jiang backs China's net growth
02 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
China cracks down on internet cafes
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