RealTime IT News

China Shutters 3,300 Cybercafes

China has closed more than 3,300 Internet cafes in a safety crackdown launched after a fire in June at a cafe killed 25 people, according to published reports.

Officials had inspected about 45,000 Internet cafes in the past six months. Operations of nearly 12,000 of them had been suspended pending improvements and more than 3,300 were permanently closed.

The fatal fire in Beijing's university district came amid calls for the cafes closings because they were unlicensed and had no fire exits or other required safety features. Officials griped the impromptu establishments also gave young people access to pornography and other explicit material online.

Unlicensed Internet cafes appeal to patrons seeking lower-priced Web services by evading taxes mandated by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Culture, and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce.

But the tightening also comes from officials in the country's communist government who intend to control how Chinese use the Internet. The government wages a sort of veiled information dissemination war: currently, filters block Web surfers from seeing sites abroad run by Chinese dissidents, human rights groups and media organizations.

Under new rules that took effect Nov. 15, minors are banned from Internet cafes, while managers are required to keep records of patrons' identities and to close by midnight.

The two teenage boys accused of setting the June fire in Beijing were sentenced to life in prison. Authorities said they had argued with cafe employees about Web surfing in the cafe.