China announces new rules for Internet cafes and clubs

China on Tuesday announced tough new regulations for Internet cafes, discos and other entertainment venues, part of a nationwide crackdown on drugs, gambling, prostitution and pirated computer games. The new guidelines will bar the venues from using "audio and video products and electronic games" that "harm national security and incite hatred toward other nationalities," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing China's Cabinet.

Customers under 18 years old will not be allowed in places such as Internet cafes, discos and karaoke bars under the new guidelines, which take effect March 1, said the official Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily. Internet cafes have become extremely popular among young Chinese, though parents and teachers have long complained that they are a distraction from school work.

The new regulations would also prohibit venues like dance halls from having walled-in booths without transparent doors or windows, the newspaper said. The new rules will also outlaw entertainment outlets from using songs, films or electronic games that could "damage (China's) unification, sovereignty or territorial integrity," it said.

The report did not elaborate, but likely referred to content advocating Taiwanese independence. The two sides split during civil war more than 50 years ago, but Beijing insists the self-ruled island off its coast is Chinese territory. It has threatened war if Taiwan tries to make its de facto independence permanent.

The new rules also ban government staff, their close relatives and anyone convicted of a range of crimes from involvement in running entertainment venues, the newspaper said.

Foreigners may only invest in the venues through joint ventures with Chinese citizens under the new regulations, the People's Daily said. It said offenders may be fined up to 30,000 yuan (US$3,700; Ђ 3,000) and ordered to close for as long as six months, reports the AP.

N.U.