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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 17:48 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

China plays Net nanny

Chinese authorities are worried about the political potential of the Net

China has announced that it is setting up a new body to guard security on the Internet.

China's official news agency said the newly-established committee would protect confidential government and commercial files as well as individual users and would have the ability to identify any Net user.

It said the aim was to keep national secrets from being stolen.

Death sentence

BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt says that concern about the risk to businesses has been heightened after a recent survey which pointed to poor security controls in the computer systems of many companies.

In a recent case, two men were sentenced to death for hacking into a Chinese bank's computer system.

[ image: Lin Hai: Two years in prison for passing on e-mail addresses]
Lin Hai: Two years in prison for passing on e-mail addresses
But it is political concerns that appear to be the main motivation for the new body, known as the State Information Security Appraisal and Identification Management Committee.

The Chinese government has become increasingly concerned about the political impact of the Internet and it recently jailed a Shanghai businessman who provided 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to a dissident poltical publication based in the US.

Last year the Chinese government was shocked when a hacker defaced its human rights website, leaving a message describing its security system as a joke.

Official providers

In theory, the government already controls access because access to the Net must go through officially sanctioned service providers such as ChinaNet.

The new committee, backed up by a security inspection laboratory, is designed to enhance its ability to identify Net users.

It comes soon after government measure to increase controls on the growing number of Internet cafes, where a growing number of Chinese without computers have been able to browse the web for just a few dollars.

Our correspondent says the recent moves suggest an increasingly concerted attempt to control a tool which the Chinese government realises its needs, but which it also sees as a threat to its control over the flow of information.

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