Web sex purge hits health information sites

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 June, 2009, 12:00am

The Ministry of Health has ordered websites that provide health care information to play down content about sex. Teachers and Aids awareness campaigners fear sex education will be compromised.

The move comes amid a growing crackdown on the mainland on 'unhealthy' information on the internet.

The order takes effect on July 1, the same day a rule requiring that all new computers carry anti-pornography software comes into force.

Web portals providing health care information should not 'play up content related to the psychology and ethics of sex in the name of scientific research, as well as sex treatments and medication', the order reads.

It also says access to websites specialising in sex research should be restricted to doctors and professional researchers - but does not say how.

A 2001 regulation governing health care websites made little reference to sex-related content.

Li Bian, a deputy director of the Aids Prevention Education Project for Chinese Youth, dismissed the new regulation as 'out of date and uncivilised'.

Mr Li, an advocate of the free flow of information for sex education, said the public had not been consulted and had good reason to ask how the ministry had formulated 'such an absurd regulation poking fun at the law'. He was sceptical about the ministry's involvement in sex education since it had shown little interest in the subject before.

The rule would also have a negative impact on people's spiritual well-being. 'If people can't get [sex information] from online content providers, they will try to find it somewhere else, say porn videos,' Mr Li said.

Wan Yanhai, director of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute - whose www.aizhi.org website is one of the mainland's most important sources of information about HIV/Aids - understands the government's concern about the impact of online pornography on children.

He said some Web portals were rife with indecent material. But a free flow of information was vital for minorities such as homosexuals.

'Content providers in this field have begun to formulate a code of conduct and I believe efforts such as this are the best way to counter online porn,' Mr Wan said.