Ban on setting up cyber-cafes looms
A ban on opening new Internet cafes of adding to existing ones will be in place by the end of the month, official media report.
The restrictions were announced on China Central Television on Monday by the ministries of Culture and Public Security and the Department of Industry and Commerce.
Industry and commerce authorities will also make other cafes re-register on October 1, state media reports said. Violations would lead to the closure of cafes and the loss of licences.
A Ministry of Culture official said both mandates were announced in June and the related agencies were waiting for more details from the State Council.
Analysts said the ban on new cyber-cafes would limit Internet access for teenagers and college students. But with 33.7 million Internet users in China, they doubted the government could enforce the ban indefinitely.
'[The rule] is significant. They're still very concerned about limiting Internet cafes,' said Nathan Midler, an Internet analyst in Beijing. 'Can they enforce it? I don't think so. At this point, Net cafes keep popping up.'
Over the past two years, local and central government agencies have also added and tightened laws to ensure Internet cafe customers do not view anti-China or pornographic material. Related enforcement efforts have required Net cafes to suspend business or apply for new licences, and crackdowns have turned up numerous unlicensed cafes.
According to government statistics, thousands of cyber-cafes have already been closed. Before December last year, there were 94,150 Internet cafes in China. After a nationwide campaign to enforce the laws, that number dropped to 48,390, while another 28,272 had the option to re-apply for licences. The other 17,488 were closed.
Most of Beijing's 2,400 cyber-cafes remain closed after a fire in June killed 25 people in one cafe, prompting a city-wide re-inspection.
Duncan Clark, a managing partner with the consulting firm BDA China, said the government may want to limit the number of cafes to encourage consolidation, which would simplify health and safety enforcement.