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CHINA Threat (website prevented from posting news; government plans increased control of weblogs)

(July 06, 2006)5 July 2006

(RSF/IFEX) - Freedom of expression on the Internet has been constantly eroded in China over the last two years, said Reporters Without Borders, calling for solidarity with those - bloggers, journalists or simple Internet users - who are fighting for a free Internet in China.

Laws regulating the Internet are multiplying and censorship is being reaffirmed as a national priority every day, said the press freedom organisation.

The website Polls ( Zhongguo guoqing zixun, http://www.s007s.com/ ), which was previously closed by the authorities in May 2006, has come under a new official onslaught and has not posted any fresh news since 27 June. Meanwhile, on 29 June, the government announced it was going to step up control of weblogs and search engines to block all "illegal and unhealthy" content.

Polls was closed for several weeks in May after posting a questionnaire about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. After several weeks of negotiations with the authorities, the site was able to reopen on 6 June.

But on 27 June, the director of Polls, Lu Guanghui, received a phone call from the Publicity Department (former Propaganda Department) in Hunan province, central China, informing him that his site was no longer tolerated by the authorities in Beijing. They considered that articles posted on the site referring to the Cultural Revolution were "extremely irresponsible" and likely to have "harmful effects on society".

The website was again accessible on the morning of 29 June, but empty of all content, its home page saying that "negotiations are under way with the competent authorities".

The government said on 29 June that it wanted to tighten control of weblogs and search engines. The Information Office of the State Council, through its director, Cai Wu, said that the government was going to "take effective measures to put the BBS, blogs and search engines under control".

Industry and Information Minister Wang Xiaodong added that his services would "speed up technology development to safeguard the management of the Net" and "do more research on Internet security issues triggered by the new technologies of blogs and search engines."

In a country in which the traditional media are strictly controlled by the regime, the Internet is a medium which is expanding rapidly, with more than 100 million Internet-users and nearly 37 million weblogs - a figure which is expected to surpass 60 million by the end of 2006, according to a study carried out by the University of Tsinghua.

For further information, contact Julien Pain, RSF Internet Desk, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 71, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: [email protected], Internet: http://www.internet.rsf.org

The information contained in this update is the sole responsibility of RSF. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit RSF. (boxun.com)

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