07/28/2011, 00.00
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Beijing to monitor public Internet users

The police orders a device be installed that identifies the user and stores the sites visited. But the cost is high and traders protest. China fears the rapid spread of information over the web and aim for complete control.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - There is a growing controversy in Beijing over a new police regulation for bars, restaurants, hotels, libraries to install costly systems to control access to the internet. Many accuse the authorities of wanting to increase the already strict censorship on the Internet. But traders complain about the cost.

The equipment costs between 20 thousand (3100 dollars) to 40 thousand yuan and requires ID for any internet access. The device then retains data for 60 days for police control, including who used the internet name, address, name of internet access and web sites visited.

The provision, which now appears to apply only to certain areas such as central Beijing, Dongcheng District, is widely criticized as another form of Internet censorship, despite the police explainations that they want to target hackers, online gambling, visitors to porn sites and viruses.

But many traders, especially small local businesses protest that they can not afford this cost, nor risk a fine of 15 thousand yuan and the revocation of their license. They note that costs should be covered by police and say that it would force them to remove free internet access, which attracts a lot of young people who spend hours surfing the Internet on their premises.

Users are also highly critical, many of whom say they are ready to desert the premises rather than use the internet. Many explain the go to these premises to surf the net not for reasons of anonymity but for the comfortable environment to meet friends. In cybercafés ID is already required even before users access the internet.

Faced with the protests and the refusal of many operators to install the equipment, Zi Xiangdong, a spokesman for the office of Beijing Public Security, said that "it is examining the situation," without further explanation.

China wants to achieve a tight control on the Internet, to prevent the rapid spread of unwelcome news. In February unknown internet users called the population to take to the streets for jasmine Revolution style peaceful protests, indicating the time and place of meeting and greatly alarming police, who patrolled the places of meeting on the dates listed with dogs and water cannons and arrested even those who passed, forbidding foreign journalists to walk in the area.

Police sources say that the measure will soon be introduced in all major cities.

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