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China 3 July 2006

Polls website back online


The website Polls was allowed to reopen after negotiations between its webmaster, Lu Guanghui, and the provincial authorities in Hunan, central China. After going back online the site invited visitors to reply to the following question: “Will the speech given by President Hu Jintao on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party speed up the fight against corruption in China?” It suggests four possible answers: “Yes this speech will significantly contribute to speeding up the process”, “Yes, this speech will have the desired effect”, “No this speech is just window-dressing” and “Hard to say for now, so no opinion.”


Noose tightening around Chinese Web


Freedom of expression on the Internet has been constantly eroded in China for the last two years, said Reporters Without Borders, calling for solidarity with those - bloggers, journalists or simple Internet-users - who are fighting for a free Internet in China.

Laws regulating the Net are multiplying and censorship is being reaffirmed as a national priority every day, said the press freedom organisation.

The website Polls, which has already been closed by the authorities in May 2006, has come under a fresh official onslaught and has not posted any fresh news since 27 June, while on 29 June, the government announced it was going to step up control of weblogs and search engines to block all “illegal and unhealthy” content.

Polls was closed for several weeks in May after posting a questionnaire about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. After several weeks of negotiations with the authorities the site was able to reopen on 6 June.

But on 27 June, the director of Polls, Lu Guanghui, received a phone call from the Publicity Department (former Propaganda Department) in Hunan province in central China informing him that his site was no longer tolerated by the authorities in Beijing. They considered that articles posted on the site referring to the Cultural Revolution were “extremely irresponsible” and likely to have “harmful effects on society”.

The website was again accessible on the morning of 29 June, but empty of all content, its home page saying that “negotiations are under way with the competent authorities”.

The government said on 29 June that it wanted to tighten control of weblogs and search engines. The Information Office of the State Council, through its director, Cai Wu, said that the government was going to “take effective measures to put the BBS, blog and search engine under control”.

Industry and information minister Wang Xiaodong added that his services would “speed up the technology development to safeguard the management of the Net” and “do more researches on the Internet security issues triggered by the new technologies of blogs and search engines.”

In a country in which the traditional media are strictly controlled by the regime, the Internet is a media which is expanding rapidly with more than 100 million Internet-users and nearly 37 million weblogs - a figure which is expected to pass 60 million by the end of the year, according to a study carried out by the University of Tsinghua.

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