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The Chinese Government has shut down 17,488 Internet cafes. The official reason for the closures is their failure to block sites considered subversive or pornographic.

Another 28,000 Internet cafes must install monitoring software, required under Government regulations, the Associated Press reports. Many foreign news sites are blocked under the restrictions.

In July, Beijing shut 2,000 cybercafes, and suspended another 6,000 amid fears that the nation's youths were becoming net addicts.

A Shanghai-based Webmaster, Lawrence Sheed, told us that a Beijing TV station recently ran an expose about Internet cafes and pornography. This prompted a renewed Government crackdown (there was one in April also) and the closures.

However, Sheed says cafes are mostly used by school kids to play network games or chat to mates on the Chinese version of ICQ (is Unreal Tournament considered subversive material?). Browsing the Web isn't much fun when it's all in a foreign language, so that's mostly left to foreigners in the country looking for news.

Around 27 million people in China now use the Internet, of which about 4.5 million rely on Internet bars. Various Democracy advocates and Falun Gong members have used the Internet to spread information the Communist regime considers subversive, resulting in more than a dozen arrests over the last two years for online dissent.

Recently, human rights activists accused Nortel Networks, accusing of contributing to human rights violations by helping the country overhaul its ageing surveillance technology, the 'Great firewall of China'. ®

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The Great Firewall: Committee to Protect Journalists briefing on China and the Internet

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