Delegate suggests closing internet cafes - then has website hacked

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 March, 2010, 12:00am

Hackers brought down a CPPCC delegate's company website yesterday after she proposed shutting down all internet cafes on the mainland.

Critics described the proposal as the 'wackiest' in the history of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Yan Qi , president of Sichuan hotpot restaurant chain Taoranju, was quoted by the Chongqing Morning Post on Tuesday as saying that she would make a proposal during the CPPCC's annual meeting calling for all internet bars and cafes to be shut down.

She said that if such business were allowed to open in the future, they should be owned and run by the government, rather than profit-seeking businesses.

Her proposal immediately drew criticism from internet cafe owners, internet users and the mainland media. Critics said it was too extreme.

Taoranju's official website was hacked several times yesterday.

One hacker, known as Cigarette Butt Brother, posted a popular line from director Zhang Yimou's latest movie, A Simple Noodle Story, on the company's homepage, poking fun at Yan for being delusional and self-important: 'Don't be obsessed with me. I am just a legend.'

Yan defended her proposal as an act of heroism. She said she had received a touching letter from a mother whose child was ruined by spending too much time in internet cafes. She made an investigation and was shocked by the number of primary school students she found in internet cafes. Many were playing games, some were socialising and some were looking at pornographic websites.

'The law to protect the under age group has remained on paper,' she told the newspaper.

The first internet cafes emerged on the mainland in 1996 and they spread rapidly. There were about 140,000 internet cafes by the end of 2008, according to Iresearch, an internet business consultancy.

The government tightened up on issuing internet cafe licences after four young internet users lit a fire at an internet bar in Beijing's Haidian district in 2002, killing 25 people, and the Ministry of Culture stopped issuing new licences altogether in 2007.

Mr Chen, an internet cafe owner in Guangzhou's Panyu district, said that the proposal could cut off many young Chinese citizens' rightful access to the internet.

'Most customers in my shop are young migrant workers,' he said. 'They can't afford a computer.'