Houston Community News >> China Shuts down Over 18,000 Websites

9/24/2007 Beijing - Christian Science Monitor reports that the Chinese authorities are in the midst of an unusually harsh crackdown on the Internet, closing tens of thousands of websites that had allowed visitors to post their opinions, according to bloggers and Internet monitors in China.

The new censorship wave appears linked to next month's 17th Communist Party Congress, a key political gathering that will set China's course for the coming five years. Party leaders generally prefer to meet undisturbed by criticism.

Censors and Web-hosting firms always keep an eye out for unapproved views on sensitive subjects, often deleting them.

But this campaign seems more indiscriminate. In recent weeks, police nationally have been shutting down Internet data centers (IDCs), the physical computers that private firms rent – from state-owned or private companies – to host websites offering interactive features, say industry insiders. "With the approach of the Party Congress, the government wants the Internet sphere silent, to keep people from discussing social problems," says Isaac Mao, one of China's first bloggers, who is now organizing a censorship monitoring project. "Shutting down IDCs is a quick and effective way of shutting down interactive sites."

To avoid being blocked, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in China and individual websites have been disabling chatrooms, forums, and other interactive features that might provide a platform for viewpoints unacceptable to the authorities.

"We don't want to get shut down so we shut down anything that could be offensive," says one foreign ISP employee. "Our upstream provider [the company that owns the servers] told us verbally there should be no commentary, no blogs, no bulletin board services, because the government is going bananas."

More than 18,000 websites blocked

In a recent circular, one Shanghai-based ISP warned its clients that "a special working party against illegal Internet information and activities" had begun work on Aug. 30 and "started to focus on cleaning up pornographic videos … and 'harmful' information … and so took control of Internet information services security management."

Earlier this month, the government-controlled "Shanghai Daily" reported that the authorities had blocked access to 18,401 "illegal" websites since April. Just under half of them carried pornography, the paper said, while the rest were unregistered.

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