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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
China to battle internet 'enemies'
Man looking at poster for internet company
China fears the net exposes people to dissident groups
China called on its local media on Wednesday to boost their internet presence to fight the propaganda war against online political "enemies".

The call by the Communist Party comes in the wake of a Chinese police shutdown of a pro-democracy website run by a group of dissidents within the country.

[The internet] has advanced, healthy and beneficial information, [but also] much reactionary, superstitious and pornographic content

Chinese Communist Party
The Communist Party said the internet was an important battleground to sway public opinion.

"Enemy forces at home and abroad are sparing no effort to use this battle front to infiltrate us," the Party said in a commentary in its newspaper the People's Daily.

China, it said, had to "work hard" to seize online opportunities.

Many Chinese media organisations have set up websites, including the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily.

But with closely controlled content, they face tough competition from non-official sites.

'Superstitious and pornographic'

The Communist Party commentary said the world wide web had made "political thought work" more efficient but had brought in unwelcome ideas.

Lin Hai, who gave information to a US dissident website
Net dissident Lin Hai was the first to be jailed
"[The internet] has advanced, healthy and beneficial information, [but also] much reactionary, superstitious and pornographic content," it said.

China is keen to capitalise on the internet's economic and propaganda potential.

But it is nervous that the internet will expose Chinese people to anti-government information.

There has been an explosive growth of the internet in China, with the number of users doubling every six months to nearly 15 million in June.

Net police

Earlier this week the government expressed confidence in its ability to police the internet for subversive or pornographic content.

Tianammen Square protest
Huang Qi was arrested for internet articles about the Tiannamen protest
Local media announced an internet police force would be set up central Anhui province, to be followed by similar forces in 20 other provinces.

The authorities often block websites considered subversive or undersirable, including those of western media organisations, human rights groups and Tibetans.

Domestic sites operate considerable self-censorship.

Webmasters face jail

The New Culture Forum, described as being openly in favour of democracy, was closed down last week.

Police are still hunting for the site's operators, dissidents from Shadong Province.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders protested against the site's closure, warning that its webmasters were now facing heavy jail terms.

In June, China arrested a man, Huang Qi, who launched China's first human rights website.

Another man, Lin Hai, was jailed last year for providing information to a US-based dissident website.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing
"The number of people logging on in China has passed 15m"
See also:

08 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China shuts dissident website
15 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China charges web entrepreneur
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Can governments control the internet?
02 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
China cracks down on internet cafes
08 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
Net dissident appeals
19 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Online boom for China
16 Sep 99 | The Economy
China bans Internet investment
12 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
China plays Net nanny
13 Oct 98 | Asia-Pacific
China 'blocks' BBC Website
07 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests internet editor
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