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Judgement day for suicide-teaching web
By Jiang Xuezhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-01 06:32

Websites in the country promoting and detailing methods of suicide are facing their own demise, authorities have warned.

Speaking yesterday, an official with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said judicial punishment will be given to those who distribute "online suicide guides" or operate suicide websites that persuade people to kill themselves.

According to experts, it is the first time public security departments have made a clear declaration to fight against such websites.

The MPS official, who asked not to be identified, said: "Criminal proceedings will be sought against those who break the law by spreading unhealthy information on the web."

From July to November last year, the MPS, together with the Ministry of Information Industry, the Ministry of Culture and the State Council, launched an initiative to clean up cyberspace and cracked down on more than 1,400 pornographic websites, officials said.

But now the Chinese media are raising concerns over the potentially more dangerous web phenomenon of suicide pages.

On March 27, a netizen with the surname Shi was startled after opening a mysterious webpage that detailed various methods of committing suicide, along with notes on preparing for death, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday.

In early March, a heartbroken mother told a local newspaper in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, how she accidentally discovered her son surfing a suicide website in his room, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

Searching on google, the key words "suicide websites" and "suicide guides," yield more than 610,000 and 110,00 results.

"Suicide websites are turning many desperate people, especially youngsters, who linger at the edge of death, onto a path from which there is no return," said Xia Xueluan, a sociologist with Peking University.

It is "inhumane and immoral" to seduce others to end their lives through the web, Xia said, adding the authors who wrote the suicide guides are, to some degree, "murderers."

Reports said China's public security departments had eradicated online suicide guides and websites in 2002, but there appears to have been a resurgence of the pages over the last two years.

The ministry official disclosed that the MPS is working with other departments to prevent the spread of harmful and unhealthy information on the web.

So far, there have been no reports in China of anybody having followed the methods suggested by the suicide webpage, unlike in Japan where dozens of people have died after communicating over the Internet.

Reports indicate that 34 Japanese committed suicide following the directions of such websites in 2003. Last year, the death toll rose to 55. To curb the spread of harmful information, including online suicide guides, legal experts suggested that social supervision and self-discipline are required for both Internet industries and individual web users.

(China Daily 04/01/2005 page2)

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