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Cops shutter net cafes to save Beijing's youth

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Beijing police have announced yet another ‘clean-up’ of the web, this time closing hundreds of internet cafes and arresting thousands in the name of protecting the Chinese capital’s vulnerable youth.

Fu Zhenghua, who heads up the city’s Public Security Bureau, said that just over 5,000 people had been arrested and the owners of more than 7,500 web sites punished recently, according to TechInAsia.

The Chinese authorities periodically crack down on what they regard as illegal online activity, although it’s interesting to see the reason given this time is protecting “the physical and mental health of young people”.

To that end, over 10,000 internet cafes – a popular hang-out for kids across the globe – have apparently been inspected and over 200 shut down and their owners arrested.

Fu announced the news at a meeting on Tuesday to mark the start of a month-long clean-up campaign with the same ostensible goal in mind – to make the internet a safer place for the children of Beijing. Such children may well be in more danger of being pampered to death: China's one-child per-family policy has led to indulged children being labelled "Little Emperors".

As with most of these police-led web crackdowns in China, however, you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to see that it’s not all about catching the hardened cyber criminals, online fraudsters and pornographers.

At the same meeting, Fu revealingly warned that those who make up and spread political rumours or attack the Party, government and country will face severe punishment, Global Times reported.

Although this particular edict is only being enforced Beijing-wide, most of the country’s social media and web platforms are based in the capital, effectively placing their hundreds of millions of users at risk of arrest.

As usual, the definitions of what constitutes an ‘attack’ are left suitably vague so that police can in reality arrest whomever they suspect of being a trouble-maker.

Political tension is mounting in the country ahead of the once-in-a-decade leadership transition and censorship of discussion online is being stepped up accordingly, especially in light of some high profile scandals this year. ®

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