10/06/2005, 00.00
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Beijing lays down new laws and closes three renowned websites

One site carried news and views about farmers' protests against their local authorities. The others criticized a cartoon programme screened by state television.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On 30 September, the Chinese government shut down three popular websites, applying new rules which ban sites with "anti-government" content and which could lead to protests. The banned websites are the Yannan forum – a discussions website popular among intellectuals and human rights activists – and two Inner Mongolian sites.

The Yannan forum announced its closure for "cleanup" purposes, without giving dates for the re-launching of the site; an employee confirmed that the closure had been imposed by the authorities. The site had publicized news of and discussions on the recent conflict between villagers and authorities in Taishi village, Panyu, Guangdong. The people were calling for the ousting of the village chief Chen Jinsheng, who they accused of embezzlement. Last week the Panyu authorities officially declared an end to the three-month protests. The site is also well-known for its accurate analysis and debates on social issues.

Meanwhile, the two sites from Inner Mongolia were shut down for having displayed "separatist" contents. Ehoron.com, a an online discussion forum for ethnic Mongolian students, was accused of "separatism" for carrying messages critical of a Chinese television cartoon that showed Genghis Khan as a mouse with a pig's snout. Monhgal.com was closed for encouraging its users to complain about the same cartoon. It was reopened on 3 October after it promised "not to post any more separatist-type information".

The rules approved by the central government in September allow for greater control over websites in a bid to forestall contents that could "endanger state security" and "social order". Also banned from the internet is news "criticizing state religious policies, preaching religious material or spreading superstitious beliefs". Sites containing pornography or which "harm national security, reveal state secrets, subvert political power [or] undermine national unity" are forbidden, as well as those "instigating illegal gatherings or associations, marches [and] demonstrations, or disturbing social order".

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