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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
China shuts dissident website
People watching screens
Websites are patrolled for unfavourable material

Chinese police have shut down a pro-democracy internet site operated inside the country by a group of dissidents.

The site is said to have been run from Shandong Province, through a Beijing internet service provider (ISP) called Million Internet.

The ISP manager, Li Tao, said police told him the content of the site, New Culture Forum, was anti-government.

Police are hunting for the dissident webmaster, Xin Wenming.

Police said the content of the New Cultural Forum was too extremist

Website manager, Li Tao

The crackdown on the site comes as the Chinese Government expressed increasing confidence in its ability to police the internet for anti-government content, pornography or internet-related fraud.

"Police said the content of the New Cultural Forum was too extremist and asked us to strengthen our management over internet content," Mr Li said.

Mr Li confirmed that police had shut down the website, but denied his company would be forced to close if webmaster Xin Wenming was not found.

Internet police force

Earlier this week, the state press announced the establishment of an onternet police force in central Anhui province, saying similar units would be established in 20 other provinces.

In July, a website founder from southwestern Sichuan province, Huang Qi, was arrested and charged for subversion.

He was held for posting information on the internet about the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Huang's website, based on an Internet service provider in the United States, also called for legal proceedings against the then Prime Minister Li Peng.

China routinely patrols Internet websites based in China, while blocking news sites, sites set up by exiled Chinese dissidents and pornography sites outside China.

Internet usage in China has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year to nearly 17m.

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