China may require internet users to register with their real
names when signing up to network providers, extending a
policy already in force with microblogs in a bid to curb what
officials call rumours and vulgarity.
A law being discussed this week would mean people would have
to present their government-issued identity cards when
signing contracts for fixed line and mobile internet access,
state-run newspapers said.
"The law should escort the development of the internet to
protect people's interest," Communist Party mouthpiece the
People's Daily said in a front page commentary,
echoing similar calls carried in state media over the past
"Only that way can our internet be healthier, more cultured
Many users say the restrictions are clearly aimed at further
muzzling the often scathing, raucous - and perhaps most
significantly, anonymous - online chatter in a country where
the Internet offers a rare opportunity for open debate.
It could also prevent people from exposing corruption online
if they fear retribution from officials, said some users.
It was unclear how the rules would be different from existing
regulations as state media has provided only vague details
and in practice customers have long had to present identity
papers when signing contracts with internet providers.
Earlier this year, the government began forcing users of Sina
Corp's wildly successful Weibo microblogging platform to
register their real names.
The government says such a system is needed to prevent people
making malicious and anonymous accusations online and that
many other countries already have such rules.
"It would also be the biggest step backwards since 1989,"
wrote one indignant Weibo user, in apparent reference to the
1989 pro-democracy protests bloodily suppressed by the army.
Chinese internet users have long had to cope with extensive
censorship, especially over politically sensitive topics like
human rights, and popular foreign sites Facebook, Twitter and
Google-owned YouTube are blocked.
Despite periodic calls for political reform, the ruling
Communist Party has shown no sign of loosening its grip on
power and brooks no dissent to its authority.