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China installs new Internet law

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Chinese youth under the age of 16 are prohibited now from entering Internet cafes, under stringent new rules that further restrict Internet access.

Beijing has prohibited the construction of cybercafes within 200 metres (650 feet) of middle and elementary schools.

Offenders could be fined up to 15,000 yuan (USD $1,800), in addition to having their business licenses cancelled.

The rules, which take effect on November 15, also ban net surfers from spreading material on "evil cults," as well as superstition, rumours, or libel. Also banned is content deemed anti-constitutional or a threat to national unity and China's territorial integrity.

Cybercafes - which are massively popular in China - will only be allowed to operate between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and midnight local time, during which time they will be barred from locking their doors and windows.

By mid-2002, China leapt to second place in the world with 45 million Internet users, compared to just half a million in October 1997. The Chinese Culture Ministry says China has more than 200,000 cybercafes - only 46,000 with legal registration.

The Chinese Communist Party closely monitors Internet sites it regards as subversive and blocks several web sites. The spiritual movement Falun Gong has been especially targeted in the crackdown.

An official hi-tech police force - nicknamed "the great firewall of China" - keeps watch over the internet 24 hours a day.

Authorities recently blocked access to the popular search engines Google and AltaVista.

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