NPC delegates have urged the government to develop new legal and safety measures to protect Internet privacy and on-line security Li Zhihai told Xinhua that action by the government was desperately needed to stop the surge of cyber crime. He said offences such as hacking and theft of private data from computers had increased as a result of the nation's booming computer use. The mainland currently has more than 59.1 million Internet users. The report said the need for Internet security had become a popular topic of discussion at the current NPC session. In 1994, the State Council issued the Computer Safety and Protection Regulation, while the Ministry of Public Security has also issued its own rules on Internet crimes. However, Mr Li said these regulations had not kept up with technological advances and impeded the development of the Internet on the mainland. He urged the government to quickly establish a network safety law which would clearly define illegal Internet activities and penalties, and issue better safeguards for private personal information, among other improvements. Mr Li said China could learn from the experiences of the US and Europe in protecting computer users. He said he hoped that by stepping up Internet security, more users would go online to pay taxes, sign contracts and conduct other business. The government strictly monitors and controls Internet use on the mainland, and protection of users has not been a priority. Experts say policing of the Internet has tightened during the annual NPC session.