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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Beijing, internet users photographed and profiled

October 20, 2008

A measure requires internet cafes in the capital to register their
users. Government sources say that the intention is to prevent access
to the web by minors, but in reality it seems to be a measure to
monitor users and the sites they visit. Hopes for greater
"post-Olympic" freedom disappointed.
AsiaNews (Italy)
October 17, 2008

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Chinese authorities are cracking down
on internet users: beginning in mid-December, internet cafes in
Beijing will have to photograph their clients and verify that they
are over the age of 18. The measure will concern the 14 main
districts of the capital, where registering those who access the
internet has been a common practice for years: according to the
authorities, the provision is intended to prevent underage clients,
but in reality is for monitoring "access to the internet and the
pages visited" by web users.

Recently the "extra" freedom granted by the government to foreign
journalists for the Olympics has been disappearing. They had been
permitted to visit "prohibited" websites - some of which had been
repeatedly blocked by Beijing, like Amnesty International, portals
for information about Tibet, and AsiaNews itself - and to travel more
freely around the country, without needing written authorization. But
these privileges had only been granted to the foreign press, and
never to Chinese journalists.

The hope for a new "post-Olympic" era disappeared - shortly after the
beginning of the media circus connected to the Games - with the
government's decision to reintroduce the Great Firewall of China, a
system for monitoring and blocking access to sites considered
unlawful, subversive, or against public order, together with the
blocking of certain key words in search engines.

Under the new rules, internet uses will have to be "photographed" and
will be required to show an "identification document" before being
allowed to access internet stations. All of the information collected
will be compiled by the authorities in a database that will be
periodically updated by officials appointed for "control of morality"
and "respect for the law."

At the moment, there are no reactions or comments on Chinese websites
or blogs, a network composed of more than 250 million users, more
than 10 times greater than in 2000. According to a survey conducted
by the website for the official newspaper of the communist party, the
People's Daily, "72 percent of respondents were opposed to the
measure, calling it an infringement of their rights," while for 26
percent, it "would benefit children."

Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch Asia says that preserving
some of the relaxations enacted for the Olympics, and extending them
to Chinese journalists, would be "one of the most important legacies
of the Games."
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