World News

Chinese parents "shed tears," begged for Web curbs

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese parents “shed tears” as they begged the government to protect their children from obscenity on the Internet, a government minister said on Thursday, justifying curbs on access to the Web in China.

The Chinese government has closed hundreds of websites in an ongoing crackdown on online porn and “vulgar content” that in some cases has netted dissident sites, prompting criticism Beijing is coming down hard on freedom of speech.

The campaign is part of a broader tightening of media controls ahead of October’s 60th anniversary of the founding of Communist China.

But Li Yizhong, minister of industry and information technology, slammed as unwarranted any concerns about China’s Internet controls.

“Some people broaden and politicize this issue and even attack our management controls of the Internet,” he told a news conference. “This does not accord with reality and is irresponsible.”

The government was only preventing “obscenity” from “poisoning the young,” Li said.

“The government gets many supplications from parents shedding tears, saying ‘save my children’,” he added. “I think this is not only a call from parents, but also everyone else in society’s common wish.”

Late June, the government backed down on a plan to require that Green Dam filter software be pre-installed on all new computers to block supposedly pornographic or other vulgar content.

Li said schools, Internet bars and other public places would still have it installed, but no ordinary consumers would be forced to have it pre-installed.

“I believe that this will be appropriately handled,” Li said, without elaborating.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sugita Katyal