Business as usual, but purge pledged

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 12:00am

Guangdong police have vowed to continue a crackdown on illegal Internet cafes, official media reports said yesterday.

A Public Security Bureau official said only about 300 of some 3,000 cyber-cafes in the province satisfied safety and operation standards.

About 1,500 were fined or forced to close last year, the Southern Metropolis News reported, citing police figures. In Shenzhen, most of the licensed Internet cafes received notices from the Public Security Bureau on Sunday night urging improved safety.

But unlike Beijing, where all such premises were closed for inspection after Sunday's fatal fire, it was business as usual.

'It will take a while for the government inspection to come here,' a manager of the Shenzhen Net cafe DigitalBase said.

Analysts said the fire risk was high in Shenzhen's Internet cafes, as many operated in illegally constructed buildings, which were often overcrowded but rarely had fire exits or extinguishers.

Net cafes are required to have at least 30 computers and to provide three square metres for each. But many small outlets ignore the law.

Analysts criticised the Government for focusing on information control rather than safety.

'Now the emphasis is on fire safety, but before it was mainly on anti-government and pornographic content,' said a Shenzhen University academic.

'The poor safety standards do not exist only in Internet cafes but in many places, such as most of the private factories. I fear the Government is using this incident to crack down on the Internet cafes and maintain the tight control on information and ideology.'

The academic added Internet cafes had been popular among migrant workers who could not afford computers.