Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

-CHINA: Downloading Trouble from the Internet

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Tue, 19 Jan 1999 17:02:14 -0500
From:          Barry Steinhardt <>
Subject:       -CHINA: Downloading Trouble from the  Internet

Title: TECHNOLOGY-CHINA: Downloading Trouble from the 
BEIJING, Jan 13 (IPS) - Chinese leaders are caught between 
the desire to pull the country to the forefront of 
information technology, and caution dictated by concern 
about security breaches and political activity on the 
Indeed, while China advocates the desire to be a high- 
technology country, it has had to grapple with the problems 
that come with freeing up technology as well as trying to 
regulate it across this vast country.
According to China's public security departments, illegal 
activities involving computers and the Internet have gone up 
by 30 percent annually in recent years.
A recent report says 95 percent of China's network 
management centres with Internet access have been attacked 
by hackers from both home and abroad. As in the other 
places, banking, financial, and securities institutions are 
the main targets.
Also as in other countries, many hackers are youngsters. 
Recently, a 13-year-old middle school student in China's 
Inner Mongolia autonomous region was arrested for hacking. 
However, he was immune from legal action because he was 
below the age of 14.
Such cases are no longer new these days in China, where 
almost every day the newspapers report similar incidents.
A few months ago, two people were sentenced to death in east 
China's Jiangsu province for transferring 2.6 million yuan 
to their own account from a local bank via a computer 
But by far most alarming problem for the Chinese government 
is the fact that dissidents have been using computers and 
the Internet for their cause.
A Shanghai software entrepreneur was tried in December for 
providing 30,000 e-mail addresses to 'VIP Reference', an 
electronic magazine based in Washington DC that circulates 
material on democracy movements and issues.
It is e-mailed into China everyday, finding its way to 
dissidents, ordinary citizens as well as senior Chinese 
Dissident groups, especially overseas, say they are able to 
get through Internet firewalls and barriers put up to 
prevent Chinese from accessing one-line news and opinions 
that may conflict with official views.
In short, China is has had to temper its aims of becoming a 
modern technology power with the risks inherent in this 
campaign, even as Internet use continues to grow.
The China Internet Network Information Center, which surveys 
network users, reports that people aged from 21 to 35 form 
the largest group of users. This is almost 80 percent of 
some two million Chinese users, but the centre had no 
estimate for the number of hackers.
Internet use in China has surged from just 10,000 five years 
ago to 1.17 million last year, and could reach 5 million by 
2000. ''The growth rate has exceeded the world average,'' 
said Mao Wei, director of the China Internet Network 
Information Centre.
The Internet was introduced by China's scientific 
institutions in 1986 through long-distance dialing, but 
Internet service entered its second stage in 1994 when 
Chinese Academy of Sciences established a Computer Network 
Information Centre.

So far China has four public servers that have been approved 
by the state, and through which individual servers can 
directly connect to the Internet.
China's first Internet cafe appeared in Shekou, Shenzhen in 
1993. Beijing now has nearly 200, but Shanghai is still the 
leader with more than 400 since 1996.
In 1996, the State Council introduced interim provisions for 
the management of the Computer Information Internet Network.
These provisions say: ''No unit or individual, who 
subscribes to the Internet, may engage in criminal 
activities endangering national security through its use'' 
and provide penalty clauses for offenders. They also ban 
hacking, spreading computer viruses and disseminating 
''vicious information''.
Dissident groups, especially overseas, say they are able to 
get through Internet firewalls and barriers put up to 
prevent Chinese from accessing one-line news and opinions 
that may conflict with official views.
Some groups have resorted to e-mailing material from 
different addresses, to dodge detection. But this remains a 
tricky endeavour, not least because distribution of 
''subversive'' material could mean legal trouble.
But Zhu Lin, a student from China's prestigious Qianghua 
University, says: ''In an attempt to stop 'unnecessary 
elements' coming in to the country, the government keeps on 
blocking the websites of different organisations from 
abroad. But it is not so far able to cope with the problems 
To safeguard national security and penalise hackers, China's 
latest criminal law has added new provisions to combat 
computer- related crimes.
Glitches or not however, China is determined to forge ahead 
with information technology and is preparing for its first 
international exhibition of Internet-related products and 
technology in June.
Its huge market continues to woo some of the world's biggest 
software companies.
Microsoft established its office in China last year and has 
already spread its links to various sectors including 
In late November, Microsoft offered 12 million U.S. dollars 
in software to 50 Chinese universities and pledged to help 
train Chinese computer professionals, and started its 
authorised academic training programme. 

Barry Steinhardt				212 549 2508 (v)
Associate Director				212 549 2656 (f)
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004