Cybercafes face tough penalties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 April, 2010, 12:00am

The government has introduced a tough measure to standardise the rules against the use of mainland internet cafes by juveniles, in the face of growing concern about online gaming and pornography.

People in the industry called the Ministry of Culture's regulation, announced yesterday, a synthesis of the toughest measures now in place. Some local standards are tighter, and others looser.

One of the provisions in the new regulation will cause a cybercafe to lose its licence if three or more juveniles (people under 18) are found inside or if a juvenile-related crime is found to have taken place there.

If one or two juveniles are found inside a cybercafe, it will be shut down for 30 days for a first offence. It will lose its licence for a second offence.

Some big cities such as Guangzhou, have had tough measures for years, according to internet cafe owners. One owner in Panyu district, Guangzhou, said the new regulation was unlikely to affect the cafe's business, as the district's policies were similar, if not tougher. She said: 'From the patrolling policemen to the top leader of the district, most officials are concerned about internet cafes because they will be punished for any incident that happens there.'

Anyone who enters a cybercafe must present an ID card, which is read by a ticketing device connected to the local Public Security Bureau's data bank. The device issues a ticket only if the card owner is of age.

'The system is very fast and effective. The police have caught several on-the-run suspects in my cafe when their information prompted an alert,' the owner said.

'But it is not 100 per cent. Some juveniles ask an adult to get a ticket for them. We must keep a close watch. If they slip in, we'll be in big trouble. The government has already stopped issuing new licences. No one wants to risk losing a multimillion-yuan licence over one or two children.

'The fact is, my business has got better when there is a clear and tough rule. I welcome tougher regulations, because customers speak and behave in a much more civilised manner when they know police are there watching.'

The first cybercafes emerged on the mainland in 1996. There were about 140,000 at the end of 2008, consultancy iResearch reported.

Governments began to tighten the issuance of cafe licences in 2002 after four young internet users set a fire at an internet bar in Haidian district, Beijing, killing 25 people.

Taiwan and Japan also have laws that restrict the use of cybercafes, which are not allowed to open within a certain distance of schools.

Juveniles banned

A mainland internet cafe will be ordered to close for 30 days if even one person is found inside it under the age of: 18