Internet control tightens in China

The government-appointed agency in charge of China’s .cn domain name announced earlier this month that individuals can no longer apply to purchase new Web sites without ID and a business license, according to international news reports.

Internet users in China can still set up personal Web sites in other domains, the reports say. Many bloggers already do, to prevent the agency from deleting their .cn sites. But the new limits are the latest in a series of moves against online porn and crime which also threaten independent or anti-government expression online. After all, that is how coverage is so strictly controlled in the mainstream news media. News outlets often don’t want to risk offending the state, because they require state sponsorship to operate. And a registration process makes it much easier to track down the authors of critical articles. CPJ’s 2009 imprisoned list, released this month, is testament to the implications of a stricter application process for online commentators, the vast majority of the 24 cases CPJ documented in jail in China on December 1.

It’s not clear how much of an impact the regulations will have, but they do come at the end of a year of very tight Internet controls. The ostensible reasons for their being implementation—unrest in XinjiangNational Day—have passed. But the restrictions, instead of loosening, are getting worse.