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More than 12,500 internet cafes were shut down in China during the last three months of 2004, according to state media.

Officials in China claim the net cafes were closed down because they were operating illegally - primarily near schools.

The Beijing governmnet is concerned about the influence of the net as a conduit for new ideas. A top official wrote recently in the country's official Communist Party magazine that the domination of the English language and Western ideas online are a threat to China's cultural identity.

The article further warned that "other political patterns, value concepts and lifestyles opposes and undermines socialist values". It continues: "The use of the internet for cultural aggression is extremely dangerous, threatening to a people's culture, independence and freedom, even going so far to possibly unsettle a people's or a country's foundations."

Last month China banned 50 computer games - including The Sims 2, Manhunt, and FIFA 2005 - to create "a good environment" for children.

Police in China also arrested 600 people and seized CNY23m (£1.5m) last month as part of a countrywide crackdown on what officials claimed to be a "clandestine internet-based gambling company". ®

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