China approves tighter rules on internet access

File photo of free internet service at Beijing airport Hundreds of millions of people in China use the internet, although its content is closely monitored by the authorities

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China has tightened its rules on internet usage to enforce a previous requirement that users fully identify themselves to service providers.

The move is part of a package of measures which state-run Xinhua news agency said would protect personal information.

But critics believe the government is trying to limit freedom of speech.

The announcement will be seen as evidence China's new leadership views the internet as a threat.

The Chinese authorities closely monitor internet content that crosses its borders and regularly block sensitive stories through use of what is known as the Great Firewall of China.

However, it has not stopped hundreds of millions of Chinese using the internet, many of them using micro-blogging sites to expose, debate and campaign on issues of national interest.

In recent months, the internet and social media have been used to orchestrate mass protests and a number of corrupt Communist Party officials have been exposed by individuals posting criticisms on the internet.

Internet v officialdom

  • Organisation of mass protests via social media forced officials to scrap environmentally-questionable projects in Shifang and Qidong
  • Shaanxi official Yang Daca sacked after internet campaign exposed his many expensive watches, deemed unaffordable on a provincial official's salary
  • District-level Party boss Lei Zhengfu sacked after a video clip of him having sex with an 18-year-old girl appears on the internet

The new measures come a month after a new leadership, led by Xi Jinping, was installed by the ruling Communist Party.

The new man in charge of the internet, Liu Qibao, has a reputation for taking a hard line on media control. He recently called for "more research on how to strengthen the construction, operation and management of the Internet and promote mainstream online themes".


The new measures now formally require anyone signing agreements to access the internet, fixed-line telephone and mobile devices to provide network service operators with "genuine identification information", known as real-name registration, Xinhua reports.

Real-name registration was supposed to be have been implemented in 2011 but was not widely enforced.

China's biggest internet firm, Sina Corp, warned earlier this year in a public document that such a move would "severely reduce" traffic to its hugely-successful micro-blogging site Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter with more than 300 million users.

Under the new rules, network service providers will also be required to "instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted" by deleting the posts and saving the records "before reporting to supervisory authorities".

The measures are designed to "ensure internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens... and safeguard national security and social public interests", and were approved by China's top legislature at the closing session of a five-day meeting on Friday, Xinhua reports.

The calls for tighter controls of the internet have been led by state media, which said that rumours spread on the web could harm the public and sow chaos and confusion.

The government has said officially that it welcomes the exposure of official abuses, but a new generation of ever bolder bloggers and commentators pose a threat that the leadership seems determined to counter, the BBC's Charles Scanlon reports.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I live in China I'm grow increasingly annoyed at the armchair critics who know nothing of the country, it's people or politics. It has many, many problems but so does every other nation. You think you're free in the West? You think what the media tells you think, wear what you're told to wear and buy what you're told to buy. We've not been free since we lived in caves and drew on walls...

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    ...and we are surprised?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I just wish we in the west had the moral courage to stop trading with this despicable regime. Unfortunately, too many people are making too much money out of trading with China, and we all know rich people will trade with the devil for the sake of a few more quid in profit. Controlling the internet is just another jackboot on the throats of the Chinese citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    corrupt camoron and the rest of his cronies are doing the same thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    39 "if you ignore .. China is only communist ...dictatorship call themselves communist...."

    Absolute drivel. China has hugely restricted land ownership rights, little security of contract & state still exerts great power over individ rights. If capitalist, require secure property rights, enforceable contracts & freedom from arbitary actions of govt. Your lack of understanding is astounding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Al least we're free to find out that our politicians are corrupt

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    No 79. That's so funny Ethan! "Notice how the Quisling posters keep voting up each others posts & voting down. Probably there's only like 2-3 Communist police working half a dozen screens each in a bunker in Beijing."
    But, looking at some of the posts here it's obvious you're dead right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @67 'L_CM'
    I don't know if Billy @ 45 was being racist, or is even a 'Westerner' that you describe. I think if you read it again, the post was just a little risque?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I sometimes wish the government here would clamp down on some of the people that access the internet.

    Not because i think demopcracy is a bad thing, it's just that a vast number of people are stupid, and I get sick of reading their "thoughts".

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    8. You
    Your comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    @79 Ethan Farber

    I am sorry, please feel free to tell me again how free we are in this Country to express our right to post freely on the interwebs... Hahahhaha

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Quote //83. spam spam spam spam
    West had FREE DEMOCRATIC choice & made BAD choices //

    Bad or good they were our choices to make, either in our personal lives or in public/political life.

    In China there is NO CHOICE, comply of Die!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I don't think HYS can criticise the Chinese dictatorship seeing how many comments get remove!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    why you just mislead readers , have you ever read the new rules?
    According to what i read, this is beneficial to internet users and emphasizes more on protecting the personal info from being taken advantage for illegal use by network/service provider
    can not believe the writer just totally mislead others. Look, everything is better now. If you can read chinese, go to 163 to read new rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I thought China had an authoritarian political system, and practised state sponsored capitalism as an economic means to control the means of production...

    Dictatorships don`t have elections..

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The Internet belongs to the people and in the end the people will beat any system that tries to control the Internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    It isn't just China is it. Just before Xmas the US federal govt announced it would prosecute anyone questioning the official story of Sandy hook on social media.
    Succesive acts have been tried to get put through in both the US and the EU which would limit the internet.
    There are ongoing discussions over who should 'control' the web.

    Let's just say it's all China though eh ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    And how does this exactly differ from what the British government is proposing to do

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Well yes they would do, in an attempt to hold onto and control the last vestiges of their totalitarian state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    @ 64 June

    Really? So becming more democratic is clamping down on what people can say! Wonderful logic, that!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I don't know why we in the west always accuse China of restricting freedom of speech and censorship. Wake up! It is coming here and has already started. In 10 years time you will all know what oppression and big brother watching your every move is really like. If you really believe our political masters are any different in there intent than the Chinese think again!!!


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