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China's Internet Management Lawful
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The regulation of China's Internet is fully in line with international practice, and the country welcomes foreign Web-based businesses to open here and provide lawful services, a top cyberspace regulator said yesterday in Beijing.

Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office, said that people in China have access to the Internet, except when access is denied to "very few" foreign websites with content that usually involves pornography or terrorism.

"Regulating the Internet according to law is international practice," Liu told reporters. "After studying Internet legislation in the West, I've found we basically have identical legislative objectives and principles."

The Chinese government has been very "positive" in supporting the Internet and has enacted legislation necessary for its development, he said.

Answering a China Daily question on criticism in some foreign media of Chinese websites deleting Internet users' messages, Liu said it is common practice around the world to remove "illegal and harmful" information.

Some leading US websites, including Yahoo and the New York Times, have explicit stipulations when it comes to posting messages in forums, he said.

For example, the New York Times website says: "We reserve the right to delete, move or edit messages that we deem abusive, defamatory, obscene, in violation of copyright or trademark laws, or otherwise unacceptable We reserve the right to remove the posting privileges of users who violate these standards of Forum behavior at any time."

Liu said: "It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (they) criticize China for deleting illegal and harmful messages while it is legal for US websites to do so."

Asked to comment on the operations of US companies which have invested, or are involved, in the Chinese Internet market, Liu said China welcomes any foreign company that provides lawful services in the country.

The US Congress is reportedly scheduled to hold a hearing today about the performance of Internet giants such as Yahoo and Google in China.
"Companies, including Internet firms, that provide services in China must observe Chinese statutes," Liu said.

"Global companies should know how to provide lawful services and what they should do when providing such services. It is their own business when it comes to specific methods and approaches," he added.

When users are denied access to some foreign websites, it is usually because these sites contain information that violates Chinese law, he explained.

Like in the US, Britain and some other countries, China has self-administering Internet associations that resolve most Internet-related issues, he said.

China has also launched a web-based information center to which the public can report illegal and harmful information on the Internet. The site functions like the Internet Watch Foundation in Britain, he said.

Since it was set up in June 2004, the center has received 235,000 tip-offs from the public on what they deem "harmful information," he said.

Penalties imposed on websites carrying illegal and harmful information have been "lenient" in China, Liu said, adding no website has been shut down as a result.

"No one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the Internet," he said.

Liu said the country's Internet market is huge and open, adding: "I believe more foreign businesses will benefit from the increasingly attractive market."

Wang Junxiu, co-founder of BlogChina.com, yesterday said there could be tremendous opportunities for foreign Internet companies in the Chinese market by working with Chinese partners.

China has about 110 million Internet users, the second world's largest in the world after the US.

With more than 20,000 new users joining the Internet community everyday, China is expected to have 130 million users by the end of this year, according to Liu Zhijiang of the China Internet Network Information Center.

(China Daily February 15, 2006)

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