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China's Hu vows to "purify" Internet

Reuters | January 25, 2007

Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has vowed to "purify" the Internet, state media reported on Wednesday, describing a top-level meeting that discussed ways to master the country's sprawling, unruly online population.

Hu made the comments as the ruling party's Politburo -- its 24-member leading council -- was studying China's Internet, which claimed 137 million registered users at the end of 2006.

Hu, a strait-laced communist with little sympathy for cultural relaxation, did not directly mention censorship.

But he made it clear that the Communist Party was looking to ensure it keeps control of China's Internet users, often more interested in salacious pictures, bloodthirsty games and political scandal than Marxist lessons.

The party had to "strengthen administration and development of our country's Internet culture," Hu told the meeting on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

"Maintain the initiative in opinion on the Internet and raise the level of guidance online," he said. "We must promote civilized running and use of the Internet and purify the Internet environment."

In 2006, China's Internet users grew by 26 million, or 23.4 percent, year on year, to reach 10.5 percent of the total population, the China Internet Network Information Center said on Tuesday.

The vast majority of those users have no access to overseas Chinese Web sites offering uncensored opinion and news critical of the ruling party. But even in heavily monitored China, news of official misdeeds and dissident opinion has been able to travel through online bulletin boards and blogs.

Hu told officials to intensify control even as they seek to release the Internet's economic potential. "Ensure that one hand grasps development while one hand grasps administration," he said.

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