By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch, Asia
BEIJING, China – New Chinese internet regulations will require bars, restaurants, and bookstores that offer internet access (Wi-Fi) throughout the country to install new web monitoring software reports the New York Times. The software, which costs approximately 3,100 (USD), allows security officials to access the identities of internet users in public places.
The software will also give officials the ability to know what the internet user is viewing. Business owners who fail to abide by the new regulations may be subject to a 23,000 dollar fine and the lost of their business license.
China already has some of the strictest internet regulations in the world. When the Apple “iphone” was first released in China, Wi-Fi capabilities had to be disabled in order to be legally sold in the country. Since then Apple has modified its products to meet the specifications set forth by the government reports the Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the government blocked more than one million websites from viewers. While many of the websites were pornographic, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were also blocked reports the New York Times.
Although the new regulations do not directly decrease the availability of the internet to Chinese citizens, many people are concerned. “From the point of view of the common people, this policy is unfair,” said Wang Bo, the owner of L’Infusion, a cafe that features crepes, waffles, and Wi-Fi. Wang Fang, 28, an advertising sales agent explained “To be honest, I can get internet at home or at work, but it’s nice to just sit in a comfortable place and surf the Web.”
Business owners who rely on Wi-Fi to attract customers are concerned about the costs associated with the new regulations. A manager of a local café called Kubrick told the New York Times that it unplugged its router earlier in the month to avoid paying for the software. However, the manager explained that the loss of Wi-Fi has led to a thirty percent decrease in business because people do not have a reason to come anymore.
Another bookstore owner told the New York Times she unplugged her router because she refuses to play a role in the government monitoring what citizens view on the internet. Ray Heng, the owner of a Mexican restaurant, told the New York Times that he feels the government should foot the bill for the new software if it is so concerned about monitoring the internet.
The Dongcheng Public Security Bureau has not commented on the new regulations, but according to its publicly issued circular, the measure is designed to frustrate criminals who use the Internet to “conduct blackmail, traffic goods, gamble, propagate damaging information and spread computer viruses” reports the New York Times.
China has vigorously defended its position on internet regulations in the past. In fact, China has responded to U.S. criticisms over internet monitoring by stating the U.S. acts in the exact same manner under the Patriot Act.
For more information, please see:
Sydney Morning Herald — Officials in China to monitor public Wi-Fi use – 28 July 2011
New York Times — China Steps Up Web Monitoring, Driving Many Wi-Fi Users Away – 25 July 2011
Wall Street Journal — Apple Eyes Bigger Slice of Chinese Market – 19 July 2011
BBC — China tightens internet censorship control — 4 May 2011
China Daily — Google’s excuse about censorship unacceptable, netizens say – 22 March 2010