The new rules make it harder for businesses to protect commercial
secrets and for individuals to continue viewing overseas Web sites
that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive.
The Chinese government issued new rules Friday requiring Internet
users to provide their real names to service providers, while
assigning Internet companies greater responsibility for deleting
forbidden postings and reporting them to the authorities.
The decision came as government censors have sharply stepped up
restrictions on China's international Internet traffic in recent
weeks. The restrictions are making it harder for businesses to
protect commercial secrets and for individuals to view overseas Web
sites that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive.
The new regulations, issued by the Standing Committee of the
National People's Congress, allow Internet users to continue to
adopt pseudonyms for their online postings, but only if they first
provide their real names to service providers, a measure that could
chill some of the vibrant discourse on the country's Twitter-like
microblogs. The authorities periodically detain and even jail
Internet users for politically sensitive comments, like calls for a
multiparty democracy or allegations of impropriety by local
The Standing Committee ordered that any entity providing Internet
access, either over fixed lines or cellphones, "should, when signing
agreements with users or confirming provision of services, demand
that users provide true information about their identities."
In recent weeks, Internet users in China have exposed a series of
sexual and financial scandals that have led to the resignations or
dismissals of at least 10 local officials.
The international news media have also published a series of
reports in recent months on the accumulation of wealth by the family
members of China's leaders, and some Web sites carrying such
reports, including Bloomberg's and the English- and Chinese-
language sites of The New York Times, have been blocked, while
Internet comments about them have been swiftly deleted.
The regulations issued Friday build on a series of similar
administrative guidelines and municipal rules issued over the past
year. China's mostly private Internet service providers have been
slow to comply with them, fearing the reactions of their customers.
The Standing Committee's decision has greater legal force, and
puts more pressure on Chinese Internet providers to comply more
quickly and comprehensively, Internet specialists said.
In what appeared to be an attempt to make the decision more
palatable to the Chinese public, the Standing Committee also
included a mandate for businesses in China to be more cautious in
gathering and protecting electronic data.
"Nowadays on the Internet there are very serious problems with
citizens' personal electronic information being recklessly
collected, used without approval, illegally disclosed, and even
traded and sold," Li Fei, a deputy director of the Standing
Committee's legislative affairs panel, said at a news conference in
Beijing on Friday. "There are also a large number of cases of
invasive attacks on information systems to steal personal electronic
information, as well as lawbreaking on the Internet through swindles
and through defaming and slandering others."
Mr. Li denied that the government was seeking to prevent the
exposure of corruption.
"When citizens exercise these rights according to the law, no
organization or individual can use any reason or excuse to
interfere, and cannot suppress them or exact revenge," he said.
"At the same time, when citizens exercise their rights, including
through use of the Internet, they should stay within the bounds of
the Constitution and the laws, and must not harm the legitimate
rights and interests of the state, society, the collective or of
other citizens. …