Shandong county closes cyber cafes

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Authorities in a county of Shandong Province have suspended the business of all local cyber cafes for more than two months in a drive to drag teenagers indulged in the online world back to school and reality.

On July 29, local police ordered all 21 Internet cafes in Guanxian county, Liaocheng of East China's Shandong province, to suspend their business, China Youth Daily reported yesterday.

"Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for local residents," Wang Zhenqian, deputy director of the county Party committee's publicity department, was quoted as saying.

Citizens were concerned about how much time their young children were spending on the Internet. But teenagers also were spending more and more time in Internet cafes and getting weary of studying. This is a serious problem in Guanxian and in the whole country, he said.

"Everyone is clapping their hands in applause for what we have done. Authorities in other places want to do the same thing, but most of them don't dare to," he said.

Because of the suspension, the local government is giving up revenue, as each cyber cafe pays more than 1,000 yuan (US$150) in monthly taxes, said Lu Guoying, discipline inspection team leader of the county's industrial and commercial bureau.

Government officials will not say whether the closing of the cafes is temporary or permanent.

The suspension in Guanxian county is not the first time government officials have shut down Internet cafes. In 2006, Fangshan county in North China's Shanxi province closed down its seven Internet cafes. In 2004, Chibi city of Hubei province shut down all of its 57 Internet cafes.

China has 338 million Internet users, and more than 60 percent are younger than 30, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

About 80 percent of Chinese primary students began using the Internet before age 9, according to latest survey of China Youth Association for Network Development.

The country's law prohibits minors from entering Internet cafes, and states that Internet cafes only can open their doors from 8 am to midnight. But many Internet bar owners break the law in order to make more profits, which has been criticized as a major cause of many youngsters' Internet addiction.

The suspension has sparked controversy, with both critics and supporters weighing in.

"Instead of closing Internet cafes, parents should be blamed for giving their children improper education, which is the main causes of their children's Internet overuse," said Bu Wei, director of the research center for children and media under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

It's inadvisable for officials to use such simple ways to solve a complex issue, he said.

What the authorities have done is illustrated by the saying, "give up eating for fear of choking," said a netizen on Baidu Tieba, one of the largest Chinese communication platform under search engine

Some residents, however, support the closings.

"Guanxian authorities did the right thing. All cyber bars should be shut down," said Li Wenhua, a Jiangxi woman whose 15-year-old daughter was expelled from school for skipping school to play online game in cyber bars.

"Fewer students have skipped school this semester since the suspension. I think Internet cafes should be closed permanently," a teacher surnamed Li with Guanxian Vocational Education School, was quoted as saying.

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