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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 05:42 GMT
Web pornography targeted in China
File image of a man sitting in front of a computer in China
China had more than 200 million internet users in 2007
Chinese authorities closed down 44,000 websites and arrested 868 people last year in a campaign against internet pornography, state media has reported.

Another 1,911 people received unspecified penalties for "pornography activities", Xinhua news agency said.

The campaign began last year, after President Hu Jintao warned the internet could harm social stability and called for a "healthy online culture".

It will continue until after the Beijing Olympics, officials said.

Under the policy more than 500 criminal cases were investigated and over 440,000 "pornographic messages" deleted, Xinhua said.

Future efforts will focus on websites that include audio and video or which send information to mobile telephones, the agency said.

The move is part of a wider campaign by the authorities.

Last year, China's broadcasting watchdog banned all "sexually suggestive" advertising, arguing that it corrupted society.

Movies have also been targeted - in September 2007, director Ang Lee removed sex scenes from his film Lust, Caution so that it could be shown in China.

But critics say the crackdown on internet pornography has also been used to target online dissent.

China's internet is the most heavily policed in the world.

The government has tens of thousands of security officers monitoring the web and it regularly jails activists who have posted critical messages online.

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