[JURIST] The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology [official website, in Chinese] has issued new regulations tightening restrictions on Internet use by requiring citizens operating websites to submit identity cards and meet with regulators before their sites can be registered. The Ministry maintains that the restrictions [BBC News report], made public Monday, are needed to regulate pornographic websites, which are banned in China, but Internet activists believe that the measures are just another step to tighten government control over Internet use. China froze registration [Register report] of new individual websites without business licenses in December, claiming that appropriate steps were not being taken to prevent the creation of pornographic sites. The ministry says that the December ban will be lifted with the enactment of the new registration policies. The increased restrictions have caused many Internet users to register their websites overseas in order to avoid government regulation.
The new policies come as the Chinese government continues negotiations with Google regarding the Internet company's January threat to discontinue operations in China [JURIST report] due to the country's overarching Internet censorship. Google's action was in response to a cyber attack on its Gmail service in December, which targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China and drew the ire of rights groups around the world. Google indicated that it would work with the Chinese government to find a way to allow an, "unfiltered search engine within the law as well," but also noted that if an agreement cannot be reached, it may close its offices there and shut down its Google.cn website. China responded [JURIST report] by reiterating its commitment to open Internet, but stressed that international Internet companies must follow Chinese law. A week later, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referenced the threat [JURIST report] by Google in a speech promoting Internet freedom and criticizing censorship, declaring that China "risk[s] walling themselves off from the progress of the next century." Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu criticized Clinton for her remarks stating that they were harmful to bilateral relations between the US and China.