China engages in new internet crack down

 Anyone who hoped that China’s new young leadership might herald a liberalisation of the country’s net will be sadly disappointed.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, China’s communist leaders are increasing already tight controls on internet use and electronic publishing.

The reason for the spiralling censorship is because of a spate of embarrassing online reports about official abuses.

It is starting to look like China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, and others who took power in November share their predecessors’ anxiety about the internet’s potential to spread opposition to one-party rule.

Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the new leaders were still very paranoid about the potentially destabilising effect it might have.

They know that they are on the point of losing a monopoly on information, but they still are very eager to control the dissemination of views for as long as possible.

Today they ordered internet users to register their real names so that the government would know who was complaining. They are also taking steps to block software that allows web surfers to see sites abroad that are blocked by its extensive internet filters.

Other plans involve stopping foreign companies from distributing books, news, music and other material online in China.

Xi and others on the party’s ruling seven-member Standing Committee have tried to promote an image of themselves as men of the people who care about China’s poor majority. They have been pushing ahead with market-oriented reforms and to support entrepreneurs but are not in favour of any political reform.

Most of China’s internet anger is about corrupt communist party officials, however this does not appear to be high on the to-do list of the new government. Instead it seems to think it is easier to try and stop people talking about it.

The government’s newspaper, People’s Daily, has called in recent weeks for tighter internet controls, saying rumours spread online have harmed the public. It claimed that stories about a chemical plant explosion resulted in the deaths of four people in a car accident as they fled the area.

If magazines want to operate in China they will be required to locate their servers in the country and have a Chinese citizen as their local legal representative.