BEIJING: China will not allow any more cybercafes to open this year, state press announced Tuesday, the latest move by the nation’s communist rulers to restrict the rising influence of the Internet.
Chinese authorities will not approve any more Internet cafe licences this year, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a new notice issued by 14 central government authorities.
The notice also vowed to crack down on gambling through online games and restrict the amount and use of virtual currencies, according to Xinhua.
There are currently about 113,000 Internet bars in China, Xinhua said, citing official figures from the Ministry of Information Industry.
The number has exploded in recent years alongside China’s fast-rising Internet population, which soared 23.4 percent to 137 million in 2006.
Analysts expect the number of Chinese web surfers could overtake that of the United States, which now stands at around 210 million, within two years.
Xinhua said the curbs on new cyber cafes was part of the government’s campaign to combat the rising problem of Internet addiction.
However China’s Communist Party, which places strict curbs on the press, have made no secret of the fact they regard the Internet as a threat and that it should be subjected to the same controls as traditional media.
In a speech in January, President Hu Jintao called on the party to “purify the Internet environment.”
“Whether we can cope with the Internet is a matter that affects the development of socialist culture, the security of information and the stability of the state,” Hu said, in comments carried by the state-run press.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which labels China’s rulers as “enemies of the Internet”, said last month that 52 people were languishing in Chinese jails for online activities deemed inappropriate by authorities.