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BEIJING RAMPS UP CONTROL OF INTERNET

Beijing has introduced new measures to control what citizens in China write and read on the Internet, issuing what Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) calls the "11 Commandments" for online news.

Announced on 25 September 2005, the "Rules on the Administration of Internet News Information Services" update those in effect since 2000. They aim to prevent the distribution of any uncensored version of a news event or commentary.

Restrictions include all news related to "politics, economics, military affairs, foreign affairs, and social and public affairs, as well as?fast-breaking social events," such as a coal mine disaster, an official demotion, a strike, or an organised protest against environmental degradation. The restrictions also prohibit Internet postings that "encourage illegal gatherings and strikes to create public disorder" or "organise activities under illegal associations or organisations."
The rules also state that any individual who wishes to distribute news or news analyses to a listserve must first register as a news organisation. This ensures that only groups that parrot the government's version of events will have e-mail distribution privileges, says Human Rights Watch. Websites that break these new rules will be shut down and those running them will be forced to pay a fine of up to 30,000 Yuan (US$370).
Three websites have already been closed since the new rules were announced, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On 30 September, Yannan - a popular web forum - said that it would be shut down until further notice for "cleanup and rectification." No further reasons were given. Nine days before, the website removed postings about a political standoff in Taishi, Guangdong province, where villagers protesting against corruption were being intimidated by gangs hired by local officials. Yannan proved popular as a forum for debate on the efforts of the villagers to recall the elected village committee head, Chen Jinsheng, whom they accused of corruption. The Taishi standoff is being seen as a test case of China's experiments in grassroots democracy.

RSF reports that on 26 September, two websites based in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region were closed for allegedly hosting "separatist" content. Ehoron.com was a platform of expression for Mongolian students who discussed a range of subjects affecting Inner Mongolia. The site had posted messages criticising a Chinese TV cartoon that made fun of Genghis Khan.

The other website, Monhgal.com, is operated by the law firm Monhgal, which offers legal assistance to Inner Mongolian residents who face legal conflicts with the state. The website encouraged visitors to write to Chinese authorities in protest against the same TV cartoon. The site was reopened on 2 October after its owners pledged "not to post any more separatist-type information."

According to Human Rights Watch and RSF, more than 60 Chinese are serving time in prison for the peaceful expression of their views over the Internet.

Visit these links:
- The 11 Commandments of the Internet in China: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15141
- Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/09/28/china11798.htm
- CPJ Alarmed by Taishi Attacks:
http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/China11oct05na.html
- BBC Interviews Activist Who Survived Savage Beating:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4329396.stm
- Radio Free Asia:
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/politics/2005/10/10/china_taishi/
- RConversation: http://tinyurl.com/7mq7x
- China's Censors Fight Losing Battle: http://tinyurl.com/dwmo3

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