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Monday, September 26, 2005

Setting Precedent

The Chinese Government has announced sweeping new controls on the fast-growing internet industry to put its content under the supervision of Communist Party propaganda officials, as is the case with print and broadcast media. "We need to better regulate the online news services with the emergence of so many unhealthy news stories that will easily mislead the public," a State Council (cabinet) spokesman was quoted as saying.


The tightened controls are part of a general crackdown on leaks and dissent in the media pursued by Hu Jintao, China's President and Communist Party leader, which saw the journalist Shi Tao jailed for 10 years for posting classified information on the net. The crackdown comes as foreign internet companies are rushing to build their position in a market likely to grow to 120 million web users by the end of this year. The market is forecast to grow by 28 per cent in one year as more consumers are poised to move into the credit card age, enabling an explosion of internet transactions.

The French press freedom group Reporters Without Borders recently revealed the US internet company Yahoo! provided China's secret police with the internet protocols allowing them to link Shi Tao with the leaked secret document circulating on the net. Yahoo! said that, as a company operating under Chinese law, it had to comply with police requests, though the information was actually provided by its Hong Kong arm, which is outside Chinese jurisdiction.

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