China adopted new rules on Friday which impose new restrictions [Xinhua report] on the country's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and individual users. The rules, called the Decision to Strengthen the Protection of Online Information, were adopted by China's highest legislative body, the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) [official website], after one reading and without any public consultation. The decision by the NPCSC includes provisions requiring that all land-line phone, mobile phone, and Internet service contracts are provided only to people who give their real names to their providers and it imposes an obligation on the ISPs to monitor, delete, and report to the government any online content the ISP determines is illegal. While many critics fear that the new push will stifle online speech [South China Morning Post report], the decision's text claims that the new rule will "ensure Internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal entities or other organizations and safeguard national security and social public interests."
China has faced criticism for its policy of strict Internet regulation. In July the government suggested rules that would limit anonymous posting online [JURIST report]. In 2010, the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China [official website, in Chinese] released a position paper [JURIST report] on the country's human rights record, claiming that it has heightened Internet freedoms and improved civil and political rights. In July of that year, Chinese Internet regulators planned to drastically reduce Internet anonymity [JURIST report] by requiring people to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites, according to Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website]. HRIC's revelation came on the heels of a June announcement that Google would continue to operate its google.cn Internet search engine in mainland China, ending a four-month period during which the site simply redirected to the uncensored google.hk [search websites; JURIST report] after the company threatened in January to pull out of China entirely [JURIST report]. Earlier that month, the Chinese government defended [JURIST report] its Internet censorship laws in a report on Internet usage in the country.