New Chinese regulations aimed at policing the Internet are being condemned by a media rights organisation, which also accuses a US-based Internet management company of colluding with the Government to stifle activism on the web.
"Reporters Without Borders condemned the latest Chinese effort to gag the Internet by means of directives to portals that have discussion groups," the group said.
"Discussion forums are used by millions of Chinese and, although closely monitored, they at least offered an outlet for popular discontent and criticism, but we fear these latest measures will just make Internet users censor themselves even more."
China's Cultural Minister Sun Jiazheng last week called for tighter controls on the Internet, including 24-hour surveillance, and urged users to join in on the Government effort to police the web.
"Managing Internet bars requires centralized measures, the people's prevention and monitoring and thorough control," Mr Sun said.
Despite Government restrictions, China is second only to the United States for the number of people online. The number of users rose to 79.5 million by December 2003 from 59.1 million in December 2002 - up by 34.5 per cent.
News source: ABC News