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China bans new Internet bars near schools
Updated: 2004-03-04 17:30

China will not approve new Internet bars near schools, saying harmful information online was hurting children.

New Internet services won't be allowed within 200 meters of schools, China News Service reported on March 4, quoting a notice issued by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. It didn't say whether those already operating would be affected.

China encourages Internet use for business and education, but has expressed growing alarm in recent years that it is exposing young people to pornography and other harmful influences. Officials also worry that students spend too much time playing video games.

"Currently some online services such as Internet bars are breaking the rules, using the Internet to spread harmful information and seriously hurting the mental and physical health of young people," the report said.

China had 79.5 million Internet users at the end of 2003 - the world's second biggest population online after the United States.

According to official figures, the number of Chinese people playing games online last year grew to 13.8 million. Many are children and teenagers.

The government already has issued limits on the hours when people under 18 are allowed to use Internet bars and how long they can spend there.

The announcement warned that anyone caught trying to "clandestinely set up an online service'' by disguising it as a computer school would be punished.

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