News / Asia

China Tightens Controls on Internet Use

A man uses a computer at an Internet cafe in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. China is increasing already tight controls on Internet use and electronic publishing after embarrassing online reports about official abuses.
A man uses a computer at an Internet cafe in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. China is increasing already tight controls on Internet use and electronic publishing after embarrassing online reports about official abuses.
China’s legislature has approved new rules that will tighten government control of the Internet by requiring users to register their real names, and demanding Internet companies censor online material.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency says lawmakers approved the measures Friday at the closing meeting of a five-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Beijing says the regulations are aimed at protecting the personal information of Web users and cracking down on abuses such as junk e-mail. The rules also aim to “safeguard national security and social public interests,” according to Xinhua. They have the same legal effect as a law.

China has long tried to get Internet users to register their real names rather than pseudonyms with service providers, but with half a billion netizens, the task has been an uphill battle. The new regulations aim to change that and, for the first time, lay the written groundwork to police companies that are not complying with the government’s censorship policies.

Identity protection or censorship?

The decision says network service providers will “strengthen management of information released by users” by instantly stopping the transmission of “illegal information” once it is spotted and by taking relevant measures. Those measures, Xinhua reports, include removing the information and saving records, before reporting it to authorities.

The rules did not say what constitutes illegal information.

Beijing has a complex information management system that includes blocking foreign websites like YouTube and Facebook, censoring Internet searches for sensitive words and phrases and deploying an army of bloggers to steer online discourse away from potentially volatile political and social issues.

Despite that, the growth of China’s Internet has lead to a growth in online calls for reform. Complaints on Chinese microblogs about corruption, abuse of power, human rights violations and environmental pollution have led to action offline, including street protests and the dismissal or resignation of corrupt officials.

Fighting corruption

Human rights and free speech advocates say real-name registration will curtail people's ability to report, often anonymously, corruption and official abuses.

Li Fei, a Standing Committee member, dismissed those concerns Friday at a news conference in Beijing.

"We still call on the public to expose any corruption by all means after the law comes out," he said. "The illegal and corrupted will be punished.”

Online chatter about a string of sex and financial scandals has led to the downfall of several local officials in recent weeks.

Duncan Clark, a Beijing-based consultant and a senior adviser to Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, said China seems to be trying to strike a balance between information control and government accountability.

"We’ve seen for a long time the Internet being used to expose corruption but what’s been interesting in the recent few weeks, which may be a counter current to these new crackdowns on the Internet, is a lot of this has been followed up,” he said, describing the Internet as a “scary thing” for many officials who don’t want their actions questioned.

The new normal?

The latest Internet regulations come amid a crackdown on virtual private networks, or VPNs, which Web users need to get around China’s so-called “Great Firewall.”

Chinese officials say there has been no change in the policy toward VPN providers, which they say must be registered with the government. But the move has caused an uproar among Chinese netizens, as well as foreign companies and journalists who say the crackdown is preventing them from doing their jobs.

Clark said there is often a spike in Internet controls around sensitive events, like the recent 18th Communist Party Congress that elected China’s new generation of leaders. He said after such events, there is a general lack of enforcement, followed by another drive ahead of another big event. But this time is different, he said.
“Since the Party Congress, we’ve seen increased measures, not lessened,” Clark said. “So the big question ... is, when we get to the spring of next year, when the new leadership takes up the formal positions in the new government, is this the new normal?”

Additional reporting by Victor Beattie.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: ricky from: ca
January 04, 2013 3:33 PM
US should thank this new policy because chinese people will no longer be so easy to download the free illegal copied games, ebooks, E-products from websites, of course, including the US made products. In addition, this policy more or less will relief a piece of fear from assault of chinese hackers. That is a good news to US.
In Response

by: A little of knowledge from: The Internet
January 08, 2013 9:17 PM
My friend ricky. Here's the thing: United States people see China is taking thing from U.S illegally, including the Internet attack, government website attack, and other things you think that is done by China. However, on the other hand, China sees U.S is trying to stop China's peacefully rise. So, who is right ? Maybe it's not important at all, because the two countries' people are just ordinary people. In addition, the two countries work well on some issues. That's good.

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
January 04, 2013 10:11 AM
The CCP has some of the most sophisticated and extensive internet censorship in the world. They employ over 30,000 internet police & monitors to censor Chinese netizens, websites & blogs. They block access to websites about Tibetan freedom, falun gong, human rights, Tiananmen Massacre, and Chinese democracy. Twitter & Facebook are banned. VOA & RFA are banned. Occasionally CNN and BBC news are banned when they run reports critical of the CCP regime. The CCP has imprisoned more journalists and writers than any other nation on the planet. We won't see an end to censorship in China until the CCP is gone.
In Response

by: Ricky from: CA
January 04, 2013 3:13 PM
It is hard to weight the protection and liberty of internet. However, I believe 100 percentage of liberty of websites is harmful, what you have typed- "Actually pornography & violent content is easily accessible inside China" give a good reason of legislate laws to protect from porn and violent websites.

by: Internet is two-sides from: The Internet
January 01, 2013 9:33 PM
As we all know, the Internet is a double-edged sword. By the time Bill Gates created PCs, the Internet is going to have double-edged effects. On one hand, the Internet makes people live in a more convenient way. For example, you can buy things on the computer and you just simply click the mouse. On the other hand, some people want to use the Internet to do things that are harmful, such as pornography, violence, and online stealing. I think China's government just want to protect Chinese people to be away from pornography and violence. This is totally fine, coz this is good to society.

by: Focus on Hope from: On The Road
January 01, 2013 9:26 PM
I think Chinese government just want to protect people from pornography and violence on the Internet. Agreed with this. As we all know, these are very harmful to people. Most of the people who have mental problems are caused by watching porn, which is from Western society, and the purpose of it is to make money, no matter it will hurt the society or bring goodness to people.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
January 04, 2013 10:14 AM
Actually pornography & violent content is easily accessible inside China. But political websites about Tibetan & Uighur freedom, falun gong, Chinese democracy & human rights, Tiananmen Massacre, and Taiwan independence are routinely blocked. Studies have shown the Chinese communists use censorship primarily to block information critical of the CCP.

by: Rick from: Shanghai
December 31, 2012 12:32 AM
Beijing often uses the excuse "for the protection of the people." It's amazing how the Chinese need to be protected from things like free thought.
Basically, what the government is saying, though, is "we need to babysit the people of China at all times."
What's weird is that the people tend to agree with it. Most Chinese agree they need an owner/babysitter... just ask Jackie Chan.
"I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want" - the all wise Jackie Chan
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Shanghai
January 04, 2013 4:51 AM
You don't know what I am afraid of ?"tell truth"? .OK,I have nothing to say .
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 02, 2013 10:39 PM
@ Anonymous from: Shanghai, I dont know what you are afraid of. You might see that I am using my real name here, I am not afraid because I always tell the truth. Even back in China, I was not afraid of anything, as long as what I was doing was right. I dont watch pornalgraphies, I dont spread rumors, I dont steal on net. Being a good person there is nothing to be afraid about!

You just go to facebook and youtube, you know whats going on there. full of west propaganda, hatre and porns. I dont think its the right time yet to open them to all Chinese. When to open? may be when China has the speak right in the world like west has now.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Shanghai
January 02, 2013 6:58 AM
Jonathan Huang, "whether does human being need laws or rules “is not the problem we are discussing. this news reflects the reality of chinese internet control and I can't view the website such as facebook ,twitter or use majority services of google . on the other hand , I have to use "Anonymous" but not my common useing pseudonym in order to protect myself especially in western website.
Do you think that's good ???
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: canada
January 01, 2013 11:36 AM
@Anonymous from: Shanghai, you are right, we had so many different types of philosophers, some of them believed original sins and some of them believed original goodness. LOL
But it was the one, Qin, which believed the original sins and accepted "laws ruling" finally united whole China.
laws ruling is also widely accepted now a day in our world. Why we need laws? to prevent bad things happen done our people!
what happened in lawless US? yes people shoot kids in school and cinema!
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Shanghai
January 01, 2013 11:04 AM
Jonathan Huang, our ancestor pointed out people was good inside but not evil inside . "original sins" lives in western culture.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 01, 2013 3:51 AM
Ian, you are right. Our ancient philosophers already pointed out it 2000 years ago that people has their original sins, everyone is evil deep inside. Only laws, regulations and punishments can contain evils.
I dont expect you can understand it because the thousands years old Chinese culture and civilization is too complicate for your tiny brain.
I guess you are from China too, shame on you!
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
December 31, 2012 6:32 PM
To Jonathan,
Oh my God, do you realize what you are saying !
You don't believe nor do you trust your own chinese countrymen (who are endowed with several thousand years of civilization) to be able to conduct themselves properly and would act like a group of animal if the authority in Bejing fail to keep a tight leash on them .
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 31, 2012 12:26 PM
well, I think that is because most Chinese dont want the campus shooting and teens killing happen in China.
Without regulation and control, people will be a group of animals.
Why dont ask US to lift all laws, so americans can enjoy fully freedoms, do whatever they want. I would love to see that happens.

by: ChristopherC
December 30, 2012 3:30 PM
"Beijing says the regulations are aimed at protecting the personal information of Web users and cracking down on abuses such as junk e-mail."

The best way to protect your personal information is to NEVER put ANY OF IT on the internet. There is no more effective way to protect against identity theft, receiving spam or getting hacked than to never reveal your identity or e-mail address to anyone online. Ever. After all, no one can steal what they don't know exists.

So you see, the best way to achieve the Chinese government's seemingly altruistic goal isn't for its citizens to provide their real information online, but for its citizens to NEVER provide their real information online.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 30, 2012 10:12 PM
Good point, ChristopherC. So if I want to protect my credit cards, I should give a fake name to the bank, right? How brilliant!
May be I should use a fake name for my drive license, even my passport. Yap, No one knows my real name how can they steal my information right?
May be you dont even need a real name. Your friends and family just call you whatever they want. "After all, no one can steal what they don't know exists"

by: Anonymous
December 30, 2012 11:32 AM
Hey China government, yea you... Maybe if you treated people with respect and believed in human rights, maybe you wouldn't need to censor them, and maybe your own people would like you.

Did you ever think of that? Welcome to the 21st century.

By putting tape over the Chinese peoples mouths, we outside China will yell at you even louder. Chinese people deserve better than the government they currently have. Trying to cover the Chinese peoples eyes is a "no no". Get with the program or face the same fate as Syria soon.
In Response

by: rqd from: china
January 02, 2013 1:10 AM
agree strongly,as facebook and twitter is banned to access in china
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 30, 2012 4:54 PM
please just change the China and Chinese, replace them with US and American.

US will face the same fate as Syria earlier than China does.
More campus shootings are on the way.
Occupy Wall street will happen again.
China will replace US as the only super power in the world!
US will divided into 5 pieces.

by: dario
December 29, 2012 9:19 AM
They want these laws passed so you cannot speak out to the rest of the world, when they come and take more of your civil liberties.
Its all about control, once these laws have passed, everytime you speak against them, they know exactly who you are and will arrest you on some charge, like inciting a riot or something.
In Response

by: jonathan huang from: canada
January 01, 2013 3:58 AM
I can see VOA has a tight censorship too. My comments got lost a lot, and some took few days to show up. And you guys still criticize Chinese censorship, funny!
BTW, Ian. There are thousands foreigners working or living in China, do they have to be fans of communist party? If not, then why should I be a fan of the west propaganda?
so much a "free" land which can't tolerant my opinion, uh?
In Response

by: dario
January 01, 2013 3:16 AM
you are so wrong johnathon, im not saying it because its chiina, im saying it because it will be a global law, the threat comes when we have a global governmence, and we have a tyrant at the helm, we wont be able to safely reach out to the rest of the world without the fear of a back lash. Just take a look at the whole wikileaks saga, its happening in the sates too, plu they are trying to take the guns off the american people and putting it down to massacres, when in act on 81 people die a year from massacres The real reason is of course so the american people will not be able to defend themselves for when a civil war breaks out.
In Response

by: dario
January 01, 2013 3:08 AM
go back to china???? i have never been, i am british!
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
December 30, 2012 4:52 PM
You really should go back to China and register with your real name to use the internet . The kind of people like you should not be granted citizenship in the free world . I have seen people like you, who immigrated to the west to enjoy a better life with more freedom for themselves yet applause the restrictions on others who do not have your luck and have to put up with oppression in their lives in the old countries.
I know that a lot of brave chinese did die in Tian An Men square back then in hope of a better China. I also know that a coward is someone who always kowtow to the polit bureau's whims no matter how absurd the rules are

In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 29, 2012 12:57 PM
Real Chinese never afraid of telling their real name if they are telling the truth. And never a revolution succeeded in the history without paying blood and lives.
West doesnt like this law not because they are trying to defend Chinese rights, the real purpose is that west wants China fall into chaos. West is scared about China's rising.

December 29, 2012 2:21 AM
Dear Sirs,
[Technology Versus Security]

CHINA HAS NOW COME DOWN HEAVILY ON INTERNET USE BY enacting some strict rules such as demanding users’ real names. As for technology, rules and regulations should cope with its growth and penetration. Otherwise, related ramifications will be very much on the cards.

For example, the US’ proposed wiretap [accessing telephone line] law seems to be an effort to prevent the possible threats posed by fast-growing technology.

The Indian government has been demanding for long that Research In Motion [RIM], the BlackBerry makers should give access to BlackBerry’s data and closed user group traffic. And the reason for India’s insistence on access to BlackBerry’s data is that great technologies like mobile and internet have almost come in handy for the terrorists now.

by: mhey from: Philippines
December 29, 2012 2:11 AM
China is afraid of their cover up system.
In Response

by: john from: un
January 14, 2013 9:45 AM
such a sheep,put your eyes on yourself!never call help when you are being hitten!
In Response

by: from: china
January 10, 2013 6:55 AM
Small weak country's people,like you, will never understand our country's situation.
In Response

by: henry from: CA
January 10, 2013 3:24 AM
you are wrong, China never fears anything. you do not understand china
Comments page of 2

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