China vows to keep tight rein on internet

China has vowed to keep a tight grip on the internet, saying in a white paper it will continue to block anything considered subversive or threatening to "national unity."

The policy statement was released three months after a public dispute over censorship prompted Google to shut its mainland-based search engine.

The report said there were 384 million internet users in China at the end of 2009, equal to about 29 percent of the total population. The government aims to boost that to 45 percent in the next five years by pushing into rural areas where the white paper said there was a "digital gap."

It said the internet had taken an "irreplaceable role in accelerating the development of the national economy" and would continue to impact daily work, education and lifestyles.

But China, which routinely blocks websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, gave no sign there would be an easing of the "Great Firewall" - the nickname for the network of filters that keep mainland web surfers from accessing material the government deems sensitive.

The official English translation of the paper gives a favorable mention of Twitter - an apparent glitch since the US microblogging service has been banned in China since last year.

The English version of the white paper gave it as an example of a fast-growing service that allows people to express themselves. The Chinese version mentions only micro-blogs.

The 31-page white paper did not give specific examples of what content would be banned, saying Chinese laws prohibit the spread of "contents subverting state power, undermining national unity, infringing upon national honor and interests, inciting ethnic hatred and secession" as well as such things as pornography and terror.

The white paper also put the onus on companies to block content deemed sensitive, saying China requirediInternet service providers to set up "internet security management systems and utilise technical measures to prevent the transmission of all types of illegal information."

Google ran afoul of the government earlier this year when it accused Chinese hackers of trying to plunder its software coding and of hijacking the Gmail accounts of human rights activists protesting Beijing's policies, and said it would stop self-censoring its search results in line with Chinese regulations.

It moved its search service to the freer Chinese territory of Hong Kong in March.

The white paper did not mention Google, but said anyone using the internet in China had to respect its laws.

"Within Chinese territory the internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected," it said.

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