Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 27, 2012

China tightening controls on Internet

(Continued)

The main ruling party newspaper, People's Daily, has called in recent weeks for tighter Internet controls, saying rumors spread online have harmed the public. In one case, it said stories about a chemical plant explosion resulted in the deaths of four people in a car accident as they fled the area.

Proposed rules released this month by the General Administration of Press and Publications would bar Chinese-foreign joint ventures from publishing books, music, movies and other material online in China. Publishers would be required to locate their servers in China and have a Chinese citizen as their local legal representative.

That is in line with rules that already bar most foreign access to China's media market, but the decision to group the restrictions together and publicize them might indicate official attitudes are hardening.

That comes after the party was rattled by foreign news reports about official wealth and misconduct.

In June, Bloomberg News reported that Xi's extended family has amassed assets totaling $376 million, though it said none was traced to Xi. The government has blocked access to Bloomberg's website since then.

In October, The New York Times reported that Premier Wen Jiabao's relatives had amassed $2.7 billion since he rose to national office in 2002. Access to the Times' Chinese-language site has been blocked since then.

Previous efforts to tighten controls have struggled with technical challenges in a country with more than 500 million Internet users.

Microblog operators such as Sina Corp. and Tencent Ltd. were ordered in late 2011 to confirm users' names but have yet to finish the daunting task.

Web surfers can circumvent government filters by using virtual private networks — software that encrypts Web traffic and is used by companies to transfer financial data and other sensitive information. But VPN users say disruptions that began in 2011 are increasing, suggesting Chinese regulators are trying to block encrypted traffic.

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