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China Shuts More Than 12,000 Internet Cafes

Chinese officials on Monday said they shut down 12,575 Internet cafes between October and December of last year, as part of what the government calls a campaign to protect children from violent games and pornography. Officials said most of the locations closed down were located near schools.

The crackdown came after the country's Ministry of Culture last year ordered local governments across China not to approve any new internet cafes within 200 meters of school campuses.

Analysts say the increased crackdown suggests the communist government is strengthening its resolve to prevent people from obtaining information that the government deems harmful. China routinely blocks thousands of websites.

Benjamin Edelman is a doctoral student at Harvard University in the United States who has researched China's vast system of filtering websites. He says the blocking goes beyond predictably sensitive sites, such as pornographic sites, those that promote Taiwan independence or those linked to the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.

"For example, M.I.T., a technology university in the United States, offers some great encryption software, and if you had that, you could lock up data so well that even the Chinese police couldn't decrypt it," said Mr. Edelman. "So, China often would block substantially all of the M.I.T web-servers."

Despite their practice of blocking sites, Chinese authorities recognize the importance of Internet access in the modern world, and have worked to promote Internet use for business and education.

Official figures show that more than 87-million Chinese are online, the second-largest number of Internet users after the United States.