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Chinese authorities have imposed security checks on all Web sites in an attempt to protect state secrets. The move is thought to be the first time a government has moved to restrict the availability of free information on the Internet. Chinese journalists found guilty of publishing state secrets now risk imprisonment or could even face the death penalty. Secret information about the return of space shuttles to Inner Mongolia, ship-building programmes and aircraft construction in the country has recently been leaked, and the Beijing government doesn't take kindly to such leaks. The embargo extends to Chinese Web sites based overseas, many of which are used by some of the more daring Chinese newspapers to leak controversial information away from the reach of the Chinese government. Each Web site now has to employ its own secrecy checkers. Director of the freedom of expression campaign group Article 19 Andrew Puddephatt told The Guardian: "Any attempt by any government to impose censorship of the commonly applied to newspapers and television networks around the world must be regarded as a very dangerous precedent." A Shanghai Daily representative disagreed, saying: "What the government really wants is to curb unauthorised news." China's Internet users are expected to double in number within the next year to reach 20 million. But it is being predicted by some industry watchers that the news of this latest round of censorship will stunt Chinese Internet growth. ® See also: China gets hands-on with the Net Not Welcome Here: China toughens stand against Net foreigners

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