China Tightens Restrictions on Web

China Tightens Restrictions on Web

By JOE McDONALD Associated Press Writer

SHANGHAI, China (AP) - China has tightened restrictions on Internet use, ordering bars that offer access to register users with the police, according to state media.

The rules issued this week come amid a crackdown on Internet political activity that caused an outcry when a Shanghai man was imprisoned for giving e-mail addresses to dissidents abroad.

Under the rules, bars that rent time to customers on Internet-linked computer terminals will have to be licensed by police, the Workers Daily newspaper said today.

Such bars and cafes, increasingly common in major Chinese cities, had been one of the few ways Chinese could receive e-mail or look at websites anonymously.

``Managers and customers of `Internet bars' cannot be allowed to endanger national security,'' the newspaper said.

The Workers Daily did not give any details of the rules, but the state-run China News Service said bar managers would have to be licensed and register their customers.

The reports said the rules were issued Tuesday by public security and culture officials, but didn't say when they would take effect.

The China News Service said public morals and stability already were under threat.

``Some managers offer gambling and computer games with lewd content,'' it said in a report Tuesday. ``Officials believe this already has endangered social stability and the mental and physical health of young people.''

The government has encouraged the rapid spread of Internet use in China, but closely monitors its 1.5 million registered users. Service providers are required to register customers with the authorities. Barriers have been installed to block access to sites deemed subversive or pornographic.

On Wednesday - in China's first conviction for Internet-related political offenses - Shanghai software entrepreneur Lin Hai was sentenced to two years in prison on subversion charges.

Lin, 30, was arrested last year after he gave e-mail addresses of 30,000 Chinese computer users to a pro-democracy journal published on the Internet by dissidents abroad.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the sentence and appealed to President Jiang Zemin to have Lin released.

``By imprisoning Lin, your regime sends the message that China is afraid of information and not strong enough to tolerate freedom,'' said a letter to Jiang from the group's executive director, Ann K. Cooper.

Human Rights Watch-Asia called on Microsoft, America Online and other computer and software companies to publicly condemn the sentence.

``This harsh punishment reflects the Chinese government's anxiety about growing use of the Internet and its own inability to control information,'' said a statement from the group's director, Sidney Jones.