Beijing Taking Mug Shots of Internet Cafe Users

All visitors to Internet cafés in Beijing are to be required to have their photographs taken in a stringent new control on the public use of cyberspace.

Hopes that the Olympic Games would usher in a relaxed approach to the Internet had already been hit hard when the "Great Firewall of China" — the blocking of Web sites deemed subversive — was reimposed not long after foreign reporters left the country.

The temporary lifting of the firewall applied to only a few sites, and Chinese citizens experienced few changes.

According to the latest rules, by mid-December all Internet cafés in the main 14 city districts must install cameras to record the identities of their Web surfers, who must by law be 18 or over.

There are more than 250 million Internet users in China, approximately 10 times more than there were in 2000.

It has been several years since Internet cafés were required to register users to ensure that customers were not under-age.

All photographs and scanned identity cards will be entered into a city-wide database run by the Cultural Law Enforcement Taskforce. The details will be available in any Internet café.

At the Mingluo Internet café in the Dongcheng district, about 60 people were ensconced in front of terminals. Most were chatting online or watching films.

The manager affected a lack of concern about the regulation, saying that he had introduced the policy a month ago.

"I think most people don't mind. We explain to them that this will not have any impact on them," he said.

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