China's Anniversary Web Crackdown

Internet cafes vow to 'self regulate' in advance of a politically sensitive anniversary.

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china-internet-305.jpg People use computers at an Internet cafe in Beijing, June 3, 2009.

HONG KONG—Controls over Chinese Internet users look set to intensify ahead of a sensitive political anniversary in October, with an announcement by Internet café owners that they will fully cooperate with government security measures.

Internet Café Associations in 30 major Chinese cities and provinces issued a statement titled “Self-regulating declaration on cleaning up the Internet café industry” Wednesday, vowing to abide by China’s laws and regulations concerning the Internet, official media reported.

The statement said Internet café owners would “cooperate with government efforts to close down illegal Internet cafes, to improve the quality of service in Internet cafes and voluntarily 'clean up' the industry.”

It also said the industry would work toward “putting an end to hidden security concerns.”

“Industry associations in China are semi-official organizations approved by the government, although they may have arisen from the private sector,” said He Qinglian, former editor of the Shenzhen Legal Daily newspaper.

“This communiqué has been issued under the aegis of the government.

Information control

Its aim is to control the flow of political information, especially now, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. They want to eradicate any voices of opposition and create an atmosphere of unified praise for the Communist Party,” she said.

According to Chen Jianying of the association “China Internet Cafes Online”, the industry is taking steps to self-regulate.

“There will be more concrete measures coming in the future,” Chen said.

“Through such an organization and such an announcement, everyone is able to share information, including some aspects of Internet café management,” he said.

Meanwhile, online reports in central China said authorities at the prestigious Hunan University are developing and testing new online public opinion surveillance software.

Officials at the university were unable to confirm the reports, but they said such a project seemed likely.

“A lot of departments in Hunan University would be likely to be working on such a project,” said an employee who answered the phone at the Hunan University Information Technology department. “I don’t know which department it is, though.”

'Negative reports'

One piece of public opinion monitoring software, made by Beijing-based Goonie, said in its promotional material that it could monitor news posted on Web sites, blogs, and forums, as well as currents of public opinion on the entire Internet.

“[Goonie] is able to distinguish intelligently between illegal information on the Internet and to help you crack down on pornography, fake and erroneous information,” the company said in a promotional statement on its Web site.

“It automatically detects negative reports, ‘hot’ news events, and forum discussions.”

Zhu Ruifeng, editor-in-chief of the anti-corruption Web site Supervision by the People, said his Web site is frequently targeted for closure or by hackers, because of negative reports about government officials.

 “A lot of citizens and ordinary people are going to the forums and posting reports, and expressing opinions of great dissatisfaction with the government and complaints right now,” Zhu said.

“Our Web site deals with anti-corruption, and it is blocked [by the authorities] every day. When they can’t block it, they get hackers to attack it. When the hackers can’t bring it down, we get an immediate notice that it will be closed from the supervisory office,” he added.

Authorities in the Chinese capital are on high alert ahead of lavish official celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party's 60th anniversary in power on Oct. 1, and police have rounded up migrant workers and petitioners and put pressure on writers and intellectuals not to publish anything critical of the government during the holiday period.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Additional translation by Chen Ping. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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