Internet crackdown intensifies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 12:00am


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Beijing is intensifying its crackdown on Internet crimes which it claims are threatening national security and social stability.

The campaign aims to 'clean up the Internet environment' before the 16th Communist Party Congress in October by targeting hackers and those spreading viruses and leaking national secrets.

Authorities have accelerated recruitment of Internet experts, saying this will enable them to match the skills of Internet 'antagonists' worldwide.

The move came after the Minister of Public Security, Jia Chunwang, held a national public information security surveillance work meeting in Beijing last week.

The meeting discussed ways to fight Internet crime with an emphasis on stopping subversive crimes and leaking of national secrets.

Sources quoted the police chief as saying during the meeting that 'surveillance organs screening the Internet had become an indispensable force in guarding China's national security, political stability and sovereignty'.

Instead of taking defensive actions to counter attacks, Internet control officials have decided to intensify security to detect suspects who threaten the country's information security.

There will be special emphasis on fighting conspiracies by 'hostile foreign forces' to 'subvert China through the Internet'.

The decision to increase Internet surveillance came after mainland leaders became alarmed by the continuous defiance shown on the Internet by the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect and the China Democratic Party, despite years of suppression by the authorities. Most of the party's leaders are serving jail sentences.

The followers of these banned groups have organised themselves into small cells, a tactic employed by the Communist Party's own underground beginnings in the 1920s, only with the added technological power of the Internet.

Hunted by the authorities, members of these banned organisations communicate with encrypted e-mails and unregistered mobile phones. Members also deluge officials with e-mails protesting against the bans.

The banned groups are helped by technical experts who advise them on how to skirt government blocks, access the groups' Web sites to get information and even hijack television transmissions.

It is this mastery of modern communications by 'subversive' groups that has the Government worried.

It also is reacting to calls by banned groups, including the China Democratic Party, for followers with technological skills to become information warriors by infiltrating teams of government Internet investigators to 'learn their skills'.