Report: China Shuts Internet Bars

Wednesday, November 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Chinese authorities have shut down more than 17,000 Internet bars for failing to block Web sites considered subversive or pornographic, a state-run newspaper reported.

The closures came during a nationwide sweep of China's 94,000 Internet bars that was launched in April, the Shanghai-based Wen Hui Bao reported Tuesday.

Called ``wang ba'' in Mandarin Chinese, most Internet bars here are nothing more than dimly lit one-room shops with a dozen personal computers.

They are now found in almost every Chinese city and even large villages. Almost 27 million of China's 1.3 billion people now log on, up from 4 million just two years ago, according to government figures.

Of current users, about 4.5 million rely on Internet bars, the Wen Hui Bao said.

``Some youths will submerge themselves in Internet bars for long periods, playing unhealthy games and adversely affecting their development as normal students,'' the newspaper said.

Only about half the nation's Internet bars have installed all the necessary software to block restricted Web sites and keep record of user activities, the report said.

In addition to the 17,488 Internet bars shut down, another 28,000 were ordered to install monitoring software soon, it said. The software was required as part of regulations issued by Beijing last year aimed at controlling the Internet's use.

The government wants to encourage the Internet's growth as a commercial medium. But Beijing fears its other use as a forum for political dissent.

Democracy advocates and members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect have used the Internet to publicize information the communist regime considers subversive. More than a dozen people have been arrested over the last two years for online dissent.

Web sites run by foreign news organizations are also blocked by the Chinese government. Regulations also target Web sites containing pornographic material.