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Fire Prompts Tight Control on Internet Cafes

All major cities in China moved quickly to tighten controls on Internet cafes after a Beijing-based Internet cafe burned down in the early hours of June 16, causing 24 deaths.

Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin municipalities, Guangdong and Shandong provinces and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region(SAR) swiftly announced new measures for their Internet cafes, including limiting total numbers, shutting down all unlicensed ones, improving layout and amending relevant laws and regulations.

Beijing

Liu Qi, mayor of Beijing, said that the municipal government would deliver a shake-up to the city's Internet cafe sector. Rules would be revised. All illegally-run Internet cafes would be ordered to shut down. He called on citizens to expose those "black Internet cafes" to the government.

Statistics show that Beijing is now home to some 2,400 Internet cafes. However, fewer than 200 of them have obtained full documentation.

Shanghai

The Shanghai cultural administration issued an urgent notice on the evening of June 16, saying that a strict safety check would be conducted shortly to avoid similar accidents.

Shanghai has more than 1,600 cyber cafes, and according to its regulations, even the smallest should have at least 20 PCs.

Tianjin

Tianjin began city-wide safety checks Monday. The city's public security sector will ban illegal Internet cafes.

Last year, Tianjin required all its cyber cafes to use fire-proof materials indoors and cafe staff to be given fire prevention training.

Guangzhou

Guangzhou's cultural bureau announced Monday that it would temporarily stop approving new Internet cafes in a bid to thoroughly investigate its Internet cafe sector.

According to a previous report, earlier this month, the city's cultural and public security bureaus began secret checking illegal Internet cafes. They had obtained some evidence and were to resume checks.

Shandong

With over 6,000 Internet cafes, east China's Shandong Province has organized six investigation teams and dispatched them to major cities to make thorough safety checks on local cyber cafes.

Hong Kong

Lin Huanguang, director of the civil affairs bureau of the Hong Kong SAR government, said Monday that to learn from the Beijing fire, Hong Kong would also revise its relevant regulations. In future, no Internet cafes in Hong Kong would be allowed to run all night long and people under 16 years old would not be permitted to enter them.

By the end of 2001, the Chinese mainland had 33.7 million Internet surfers and a total of 12.54 million PCs linked to the Internet.

(People's Daily and eastday.com June 19, 2002)

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