China's media regulator on Tuesday issued new rules pledging to crack down on its citizens' reception of overseas television and Internet content, to protect "national security."
In a recent directive, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) ordered provincial and regional government, police departments, and judicial agencies at all levels to "strike hard" at any form of illegal television or Internet content and equipment.
It listed 81 content providers offering software services to provide "illegal content from overseas," including Fengyun, Himalaya, Panda Audiobooks, and 360.
A Beijing-based media worker who gave only his surname Xie said the administration of President Xi Jinping is intensifying its control of all media content seen by Chinese citizens.
"In the past year and a half, and during the past year in particular, we have seen controls and crackdowns extended to public opinion, Internet blocks and filters, and every sort of media," Xie said.
"This never happened under the rule of [former presidents] Hu [Jintao] and Jiang [Zemin]," he said.
'Disturbing public order'
According to the directive, which is known as Document No. 229, the rules target anyone making or using equipment to receive any form of "illegal" content.
"Anyone in reception of illegal pornographic content, as well as activities that could harm state security [or] seriously disturb public order ... will be pursued with the full force of the law," it said.
"Harming state security" and "disturbing public order" are accusations that are frequently used to jail or detain rights activists and lawyers, as well as dissidents and critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
"Police, prosecution, and judicial agencies at every level must strike hard against such things according to law," the document said.
Tightened social controls
Chongqing-based political commentator Zhang Qi said the move is in line with a raft of new controls on public speech and ideology.
"These increased social controls since Xi Jinping came to power have targeted people's thoughts and speech, and have included both political ideology and religion," Zhang said.
"There is a huge public backlash against such controls ... among a lot of commentators online," he said.
Law enforcement agencies should target "illegal broadcasting" of content using hard drives and software, as well as illegal hardware such as televisions, projectors, and monitors, the directive said.
They should look for "any software used to receive illegal television broadcasts, or to listen to illegal radio broadcasts, as well as mobile Internet client software and Internet video client software," it said.
Users of the APK all-in-one TV sticks and set-top boxes are also to be targeted, the directive said.
An eye on the 'cloud'
In a related development, China's copyright regulator has ordered cloud service providers to prevent users from uploading, storing, or sharing files that may infringe copyright, and to blacklist and suspend or terminate the accounts of violators, the China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Chinese netizens are increasingly using cloud storage to store files, share with friends, and synchronize content among various devices.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.