China's third plenum

Beijing party chief urges tighter internet controls

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 11:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 11:19am

Beijing’s party chief and its former mayor, Guo Jinlong, urged the city’s propaganda officials to exude tighter control over the internet and reverse the trend where “positive voices” were “rare and lonely,” reported the Beijing Youth Daily on Wednesday.

Guo made the strongly-worded speech, filled with references to President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream,” on Tuesday, just days ahead of a key Communist Party meeting - the third plenum- scheduled to begin on Saturday in Beijing.

“Let’s overcome the wrong belief that ‘the internet is impossible to regulate’,” he said, before instructing his officials to use “economic, administrative, legal and educational” methods to get the upper hand in the “battle of public opinions.”

Regulating the internet is of paramount importance since 90 per cent of the country’s “key websites” are based in Beijing, Guo said. They generate 70 per cent of the country’s total internet data usage, he added.

Guo’s remarks are believed to be a response to a call made by President Xi Jinping to Communist Party's propaganda machine  in August. Xi asked propaganda officials to build "a strong army" to "seize the ground of new media,"  in a time when Beijing was stepping up its campaign against internet "rumours" and reining in influential online opinion leaders.

Some of the country’s most high-profile internet celebrities have been arrested in Beijing in the past few months. Famous Chinese-American angel investor and social media celebrity Charles Xue was detained in August for suspected involvement in prostitution, while Wang Gongquan, a former venture capitalist and outspoken advocate for greater civic involvement on the mainland, was taken away in September on charges of disturbing public order.

In August, six websites, including Sina Weibo and Beijing Youth Daily, jointly launched a rumour-busting” online platform where false online posts could be collected and posted. The website is being supervised by Beijing's information office, according to its homepage.