Popular forum rushes to go offline after closure order
Raymond Li and Kristine Kwok
A popular online forum co-sponsored by the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Institute of Chinese Studies has been ordered to shut down as mainland authorities move to tighten their grip on the internet.
Chinese University and the Beijing Zhongqing Future Community Culture Development Research Institute set up the Century China site in July 2000.
It issued an online notice yesterday saying it would be taken offline along with several forums popular among mainland intellectuals and students.
Century China hosted eight online forums, including Century Classroom - the most popular - which had attracted more than 30,000 registered members.
A Century China official said it had received an order on Monday from the Beijing Communications Administration and was scrambling to take the site offline yesterday.
Late last month, the Information Office under the State Council and the Ministry of Information Industry launched a crackdown specifically targeting search engines, online chat rooms and blog service providers.
The search engines of mainland-based Sina and Sohu were suspended by censors for two days last month for having allegedly failed to filter certain keywords deemed politically sensitive. And managers of Cat898.com were ordered earlier this month to overhaul its flagship Mao Yan Kan Ren forum to tone down its political rhetoric.
Official statistics show that authorities have shut down more than 700 online forums this year and ordered eight search engines to filter 'subversive and sensitive' content based on about 1,000 keywords, ranging from Falun Gong to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and Tibetan independence.
The Century China official said authorities issued the order on the grounds that it had yet to obtain a licence to provide news information. He said the site did not provide news, but hosted several online forums allowing postings 'that might comprise news elements that might not toe the official line'.
An official at Chinese University's Institute of Chinese Studies said she was 'saddened by the closure'.
She said the institute wanted to find out more about the order, 'but the chances of Century China going back online are slim'.