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.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Handerson from: china
December 28, 2012 11:14 PM
Acutually, those regulations can not bring any benefit to the personal information pretection and the internet development, on the contrary, that will make personal information leak out everywhere. Because of those rules, i'll refuse to register even at the cost of far away from the web.

Chinese government is always "good" at playing "social public interests", as a matter of fact, they haven't done any survey or ballot, they just do it by only several days and persons who work for government instead of social or science called "lawyers or experts", especially on a closing meeting.

Therefore, this regulations haven't any public interests, the reason that they approve it is that they are afraid of the report and flesh search about the evil such as corruption.


by: Anonymous from: R. P. China
December 28, 2012 6:51 PM
I'm a Chinese. I want to complain about that the figure in the top. It cannot show the real scene of today's Internet cafe in China. Why VOA didn't label the stamp time of the pic? It must be very old. Nowadays in China, Internet cafes are high quality and looks very beautiful

In Response

by: Freedom of CHN from: China
January 02, 2013 5:48 AM
Chinese are catching up with the latest world,and we will be the leader of the future.Of course,we firstly need to reform ourselves.

In Response

by: Kate Woodsome from: Washington
December 29, 2012 12:04 AM
Thanks for your feedback. The file photo originally paired with this article was from 2005 - far too old to reflect present-day Internet cafes in China, as you note. We have updated the photo with one taken in Beijing on Dec 28, 2012.


by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 28, 2012 11:25 AM
I dont see what is the problem with the real name registering. Should we be responsible for what we are saying? If you are telling the truth then there is nothing to be afraid of, if you are lying then you should be accountable.
For sure it is a bad news for those coward rumourers hiding behind the screen with their secret agenda.

In Response

by: dario
December 29, 2012 9:23 AM
What if you disagree with a law that they pass? or the way you or a friend have been treated by the authorities? & you want to let the world know about it.
They will know exactly who you are, and will find a reason to punish you.
Its all about control!


by: Zack Shoemaker
December 28, 2012 9:06 AM
China says.....who believes anything China says? We do, because we don't want to think about what all that 'Made in China' stuff we buy. That would bring forth a feeling of guilt. Produce what you consume, or at least, don't fund the communists.


by: Lanche from: Colorado
December 28, 2012 8:58 AM
So this is what it looks like when you lose your Freedom. It could happen very easily here in America too. Your average American has no idea what they voted for in our leaders. But you can slowly see your rights being taken away and then increasing exponentially on a daily basis. Better wake up America!!!!

In Response

by: dario
December 29, 2012 9:21 AM
Absolutely spot on! Its all about control, because when they increase the pressure on the population, if you speak out against these global tyrants, they know exactly who you are and will get you on some charge! The New World Order is upon us, you'd better believe it!

Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid