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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid