China's deadline for software registration running out
January 31, 2000
From staff and wire reports
BEIJING (CNN) -- Companies doing business in China were being threatened Monday with shutdowns if they didn't register their computer encryption software with government agencies by the end of the day.
The deadline is part of the Chinese government's new rules aimed at controlling the use, distribution and sale of non- Chinese encryption products used to protect computer data from hackers.
Representatives of some international companies have expressed concern the move, in addition to new controls in China regarding Internet content, will hurt both their businesses and e-commerce in China.
"Foreign companies, especially the (information technology) companies, won't be able to sell as many products as they plan in China," Jay Hu, with the U.S. Information Technology Office, told CNN.
The Chinese government announced last week it would be taking measures to control content on the Internet. Under the new rules, Web sites will undergo security checks to ensure they aren't "leaking state secrets."
Journalists have been jailed in past
State secrets, under China's definition, can mean that virtually any information not specifically approved for publication. China has jailed a number of journalists in the past for allegedly leaking state secrets. Communist Party opponents have also been targeted.
"All organizations and individuals are forbidden from releasing, discussing or transferring state secret information on bulletin boards, chat rooms or in Internet news groups," the State Bureau of Secrecy announced last week.
"Any Web site that provides or releases information on the World Wide Web must undergo security checks and approval," the rules state. Web sites -- and any organization with computer links to the Internet -- failing to safeguard against security breaches could be shut down.
Content within the traditional media -- newspapers, radio and television -- is strictly supervised. Communist Party officials hold key editorial positions to ensure party policy and ideology is upheld. However, China had not published by last week regulations governing Internet content, partly because it lacked legal experience in the area.
Some question the controversy
Industry analysts have said China's main motive is to better control and monitor the information passing through Chinese cyberspace. While some have complained about the move, others wonder what the controversy is about.
Charles Zhang, who runs one of China's most-popular Chinese- language search engines, is used to working around shifting, and sometimes arbitrary, government regulations. He says it goes with running a business in China.
"We are 4,000 years ... we've been accustomed to planning, to control and to order. So, I would say, to do business in China, try to think like a Chinese," Zhang said.
Steven Xi agrees. The chief executive officer of a Chinese online auction company said the new regulations don't bother him.
"We don't think our operation will be affected, and it will strictly comply with the Chinese regulations, including the proposed encryption regulations," he told CNN.
Analysts say ministries divided on plan
Analysts have said Chinese government ministries were divided on the issue, with security-related ministries arguing for more controls over the Internet, and economic ministries pressuring for greater openness.
China's Internet industry has grown quickly, with the number of users jumping from 2 million to at least 6 million in the past year.
Some major international companies -- including Intel, IBM, and Yahoo! -- have already made substantial investments in Chinese Web sites, despite government restrictions on outside investments.
Reuters contributed Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon and to this report.
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