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China: New Regulation Proposed For Internet Cafes

A member of the National People’s Congress suggested quick legislative action Mar. 6 on a resolution that would close Chinese internet cafes between midnight and 8 a.m.

People’s Representative Gao Wanneng called for a “zero-hour cutoff” for internet cafes due to long-term internet addition in Chinese youth.  Gao said such addiction is responsible for high dropout rates and internet crime and asked the National People’s Congress to pass legislation regulating online gaming, reports the Worker’s Daily.

This is not the first time a nighttime ban on internet cafes has been suggested.  In Nov. of 2005 the municipality of Chongqing experienced slowly implemented “zero-hour cutoff” policy, as have other cities around the country.  Methods of control such as registration for internet café users and closure of unregistered cafes have been employed to regulate the industry, often without results.

Blogger Li Lijun writes that Representative Gao’s suggestion has brought some fun into the often solemn atmosphere of the National People’s Congress, held annually in March.

你肯定奇怪这有什么好乐的,那您就顺着这种思维方式想下去:为了防止青少年犯罪,把青少年关笼子里;为了防止家庭暴力,禁止大家结婚;为了防止食物中毒,禁止买卖任何事物…防止学生沉迷于网络的最好方法,就是限制孩子上网时间,我觉得还不如直接消灭电脑,这一点还得请兄弟国家朝鲜的专家来指导。

Of course you think it strange.  What’s fun about this?  So go along with [Gao’s] way of thinking and consider this: to stop youth from committing crime, lock them up in a cage; to prevent domestic violence, forbid marriage; to prevent food poisoning, forbid the sale of food…The best way to prevent online addiction in students, that is, restricting the child’s time online, can’t compare with directly eliminating computers, I think.  But for this you’ll have to invite our brother county North Korea for professional instruction.

Blogger Shan Cha agrees that such drastic measures will do little to solve the fundamental problem and will certainly bring hardship to the internet café industry.

当山茶看到有个别委员提出“关闭全国的网吧”、“实行零点断网政策”的提案时,心里不免产生一点忧虑,委员们你们可知否提案一旦被执行,那将对全国的网吧从业者们带来多大的冲击?你们又可知关闭了网吧和零点断了网就真的能从根源上杜绝眼下所出现的青少年问题吗?

When [I] see an individual committee member suggest “closing the country’s internet cafes,” or “carrying out zero-hour cutoff policy”, I can’t help but feel a bit uneasy.  Committee members, don’t you know that as soon as such law is carried out, what a hit it will deliver to those operating cafés throughout the country?  Do you think the closure of cafés or the cutting off of service at midnight will really solve the root of the problem that we’re seeing in youth?

Caijing reported in 2005 that a large internet café in the Chongqing Municipality stood to lose 10,000 Yuan ($1,400), nearly a third of the café’s monthly profit, with the implementation of “zero-hour cutoff” policy.

An entry at Pesea Gaming Blog notes that a cutoff of internet service between midnight and 8 a.m. will greatly limit maintenance in internet cafés.  The blog states that games, tools, and antiviral software are usually downloaded and upgraded during early morning hours.  New regulations would force owners to conduct maintenance during peak hours.

In 2006 cities like Shenzhen carried out campaigns to eradicate unlicensed internet cafés, or “black cafés” as they are known in Chinese.  Some fear that such “zero-hour cutoff” policy will force late night business into unlicensed and unregulated internet cafés.

A writer at Pesea Gaming Blog writes:

零点断网的政策一出台,国家电信部门就会积极配合,在规定的零点至八点的时间内就会中断网吧的网络接入服务。但是电信部门所能够中断的只是在有关部门合法登记的白网吧而已,那些屡禁不止的黑网吧因为没有合法的登记在案从而根本不会受到影响。

Once the “zero-hour cutoff” policy is passed, the national telecommunications department will actively cooperate, cutting off café’s internet connections between the stipulated times of midnight and 8 a.m.  But the connections that the telecommunications department can cut off are only those of legally registered cafés.  The multitude of forbidden cafés will be unaffected because they have no legal registration on file.

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