China bans opening of new Internet bars in 2007

China will not allow any new Internet cafes to open this year, state media reported on Tuesday.

Xinhua News Agency said 14 government departments, including the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information Industry, had issued a notice saying that "in 2007, local governments must not sanction the opening of new Internet bars."

It said there are about 113,000 Internet cafes in China. Many are smoke-filled rooms with rows of computers set up for online gaming, the AP says.

The Chinese government promotes Internet use for education and business but tries to block its public from seeing material online that is deemed subversive or pornographic.

In January, President Hu Jintao ordered Chinese Internet regulators to promote a "healthy online culture" to protect the government's stability.

China's online population grew by 23.4 percent last year to 137 million people, about 10 percent of its 1.3 billion population, the China Internet Network Information Center reported last month. The figure puts China on track to surpass the U.S. in the next two years as the nation with the most Internet users, the government had said.

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