China bans new Internet cafes for a year

Fearful of soaring Internet addiction and juvenile crime, China has banned the opening of new Internet cafes this year, state media reported on Tuesday.

"In 2007, local governments must not sanction the opening of new Internet bars," Xinhua news agency on Tuesday quoted a directive jointly released by 14 government departments, including the Ministry of Culture, as saying.

The notice said Internet cafes that had received planning approval would need to be completed by June 30, 2007.

There are currently about 113,000 Internet cafes and bars in China, Xinhua said, citing the Ministry of Information Industry.

The notice comes as lawmakers at China's annual session of parliament, the National People's Congress, called for stricter regulations to keep teenagers away from Internet cafes, which are often seen in China as hotbeds of juvenile crime.

"It is common to see students from primary and middle schools lingering in Internet bars overnight, puffing on cigarettes and engrossed in online games," Xinhua quoted NPC deputy Yu Wen as saying in a separate report.

China has banned minors from cybercafes and levies heavy fines on operators who defy regulations in a bid to curb soaring rates of addiction that have accompanied the rapid spread of the Internet in recent years.

Last year, a report from the China National Children's Center, a government think-tank, said that 13 percent of China's 18 million Internet users under 18 were Internet addicts.

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