China is banning on-line "mafia-style" games depicting gang violence, saying they promote anti-social behavior and are harmful to youth.
New rules from the Ministry of Culture bar Web sites from running, publishing or offering links to games depicting mafia-like gang violence. The notice says there will be "severe punishment" for sites that violate the ban.
The ministry says the games included in the ban "encourage people to deceive, loot and kill, and glorify gangster life."
With 338 million Internet users, China has the largest online population in the world. At one Internet bar in Beijing's Dongcheng district, young men in their 20s can be found at all hours of the day playing various fighting and fantasy games.
An Nan, 25, comes here for several hours every day to take advantage of the faster Internet connection, even though he has a computer at home. He says most on-line games have some violence, which, he acknowledges, is not always a good thing for society.
But An Nan says since he is an adult, he has the ability to distinguish between the violence of a computer game and how people should behave in reality. He does not think the government needs to shut down violent games.
Some companies have begun removing games from their Web sites. Oak Pacific Interactive runs popular Web sites and has removed several games, including "Godfather" and "All Corners of the Country," which features black market deals and street fights.
Many on-line players are expressing frustration on message boards because they can no longer access their favorite games. One user wrote, "I really felt like our gang was disbanded."
This year, China has shut down more than 1,000 Web sites for "vulgar" content. This latest measure to control on-line content comes a few weeks after the government postponed an edict that all new computers sold domestically must have Internet-blocking software installed.
The government said the software, known as Green Dam Youth Escort, would protect Internet users from pornography. But Beijing came under pressure from foreign officials, industry groups and Internet activists, and so delayed implementing the rule.