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Beijing's Web Users Angry at Shutdown

17 June 2002

BEIJING, CHINA -- As reported by the BBC: ``Internet users in Beijing have reacted angrily to the closure of all the city's cyber cafes after a fire in one of them killed 24 people at the weekend.

``They are accusing the city government of using Sunday's fire as an excuse to crack down on what is one of the very few arenas in China for free expression.

``...Beijing has closed its 2,400 mostly illegal internet cafes and plans to let only 200 re-open, pending new regulations, a city government spokesman said.

``But a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says that it is precisely the illegality of the majority of the cafes that attracts young people, operating as they do outside the Chinese Government's strict internet regulations.

``...But the state media lambasted the internet as a scourge on the nation's youth.

``...Chinese rules ban not only pornography, but foreign news sites and discussion of a host of topics, from human rights to government corruption.

``...Those cyber cafes which avoid the regulations by operating underground are at pains to protect their anonymity..."

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