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Government to force Internet users to identify themselves in online forums; RSF calls for release of three prisoners on humanitarian grounds

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is concerned over a senior official's remarks that the government wants to force Internet users to identify themselves in order to post comments online.

"The Chinese authorities have been seized by a legislative frenzy in their desire to reinforce control over the Internet," Reporters Without Borders said. "After adopting an amendment to the State Secrets Law, they are now embarking on a crusade against online anonymity and are trying to put a stop to the many discussions on sensitive political and social subjects that are taking place on the Internet."

The press freedom organisation added: "The practical difficulties of implementing such a measure with the number of Internet users in China now exceeding 400 million mean this strategy is probably doomed to failure. It would only encourage more Internet users to circumvent the Great Electronic Wall of China when going online."

A report in the 5 May 2010 issue of "China Daily" quotes Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, as saying that authorities were "exploring an identity authentication system" for users of online forums. Internet users are currently required to register before posting comments on these site but they can use a pseudonym to post. Wang said that, after preventing anonymous posting on major news portals and commercial websites, the aim now was to extend the system to online forums and chat websites.

On 29 April, the Chinese Parliament passed an amendment to the State Secrets Law forcing Internet and telecommunications companies to cooperate closely with the authorities on matters relating to national security.

Reporters Without Borders also calls for the immediate release of human rights activist Hu Jia, cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong, also known by the pseudonym Li Hong, and online journalist Yang Tianshui on humanitarian grounds as all three are in very poor health and their lives are in danger.

Hu Jia, who is very ill, was recently hospitalised. His family suspects that he has liver cancer. Zhang Jianhong has a very advanced case of muscular dystrophy and has not been given the treatment that could check its progression. Yang Tianshui has contracted tuberculosis, as well as suffering from acute arthritis, chronic renal insufficiency and hypertension.

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