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Minors Face Ban from Internet Cafes
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Minors could be banned from entering Internet cafes and buying cigarettes or alcohol, according to a draft amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors.

Members of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee discussed the draft yesterday, but said stipulated punishments did not go far enough.

According to the draft, offending institutions will be ordered to correct their mistakes, or will be handed 'administrative punishments.'

"I believe the prescriptions are too general and not tough enough," Li Dekui, vice-director of the Standing Committee of the Gansu Provincial People's Congress, said in a panel discussion.

He pointed out that Internet cafes played a serious negative role in the lives of minors. "Many people call Internet cafes 'electronic heroine'," Li said.

"Bosses of Internet bars that violate the ban should be punished firmly so they don't dare to repeat the action," he said.

Currently regulations exist concerning Internet cafe age and alcohol sale but there is no unified law, meaning minors have few problems entering Internet cafes or buying cigarettes and alcohol.

The draft amendment to the Minor Protection Law, which went into effect in 1992, must still go through a further draft, making a promulgation date unclear.

Items in the draft amendment at the moment include establishing an obvious ban symbol to be displayed at Internet cafes and tobacco and alcohol shops, as will as telling shops to ID customers if their age is questionable.

Han Qide, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said it is not enough to merely forbid the sale of cigarettes to minors.

He said the law should ban smoking among people below 18.

"The number of smokers on television and other news media should be strictly controlled to reduce the negative influence on minors," he said.

NPC deputy Qian Haixin called for a ban on Internet cafes near primary and middle schools.

"Many students choose Internet cafes near their schools to play online games or chat," he said.

A total of 120,000 legal Internet cafes in China own over 5 million computers, sources with the Ministry of Culture said. Some minors have become addicted to playing online games at Internet cafes, and there have been frequent reports of crimes committed by addicts desperate for money to feed their habit.

(China Daily August 25, 2006)

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