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Porn webmasters on trial in Shanxi

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am

Accused could face more than 10 years in jail if convicted


Nine webmasters behind the mainland's largest online porn syndicate have gone on trial in Taiyuan , Shanxi province. They could face more than 10 years in prison if convicted of profiteering from the distribution of pornographic material.


The suspects started operating four separate websites with explicit adult content in May 2004 and attracted more than 600,000 paid members in less than a year, according to Xinhua.


The sites first came to light after an internet surfer in Taiyuan complained to police in June last year that he was unwittingly led to the homepage of a pornographic website while trying to access a site run by a local hospital.


The tip-off led Taiyuan police to Wang Jianfei, the webmaster of the Taiyuan branch of the porn site Qing Se Liu Yue Tian, or 'Love in June'. Further investigations led police to Chen Hui, mastermind behind the site, and three popular offshoots providing explicit adult content and forums.


Using overseas-based servers, Chen and his team initially allowed internet surfers to sign up for free but then started charging them up to 266 yuan for a 12-month membership or up to 3,999 yuan for life-long access. They also charged advertisers up to 3,000 yuan a month.


By the time the sites were closed in September last year, they had recorded 11 million hits and a membership of more than 600,000 across 20 mainland regions.


Police have been conducting a nationwide vice crackdown since the second half of 2004, but law enforcement authorities admit they are fighting an elusive enemy because of limited resources and outdated laws.


Only four Shanxi police officers work full-time in the province's online crime unit and the legal framework has also lagged behind, according to Li Jianwen , director of online security at the Shanxi police department.


Beijing-based lawyer Xu Can said police were no longer able to tackle online criminal activities, such as the distribution of pornography, on their own. 'It's time [for the community] to take stock of how such a scourge can be best dealt with,' Mr Xu said.


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