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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 07:35 GMT
Chinese internet use rising fast
By Louisa Lim
BBC, Beijing

According to new figures, 78 million Chinese will be using the internet by the end of the year.

China is second only to the US in terms of the number of internet users and it hopes to be the world's biggest web market in four years' time.

One in nine internet users worldwide is in China.

It is an astonishing rate of growth for a country which only began hooking up to the internet in 1994.

High school students surf the web at a Beijing shopping mall
Beijing is struggling to keep control over content
Officially there are 32% more internet users in China than this time last year.

But the increasing use of the internet is a matter of some concern for the Chinese government, which has been struggling to exert its control over content.

In a recent survey, 60% of those interviewed said the internet gave them a chance to criticise government policies, and researchers say the internet is changing the political landscape.

The government has responded with a series of detentions and trials of people it sees as cyber-dissidents.

In the most recent case, a court in the central city of Xi'an on Monday sentenced a dissident to two years in prison on charges of subversion.

Yan Jun, 32, had posted articles on the Internet calling for a free press and the right to form independent unions.

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