The Chinese Government has decided to target illegal Internet cafes as part of its four-month crackdown to stop teenagers from accessing harmful and violent content.
Internet bars located in rural areas, joint rural-urban areas, and locations surrounding middle and primary schools are the main targets of the campaign, the China daily reports.
"Illegal Internet bars are harming left-behind rural teenagers that lack parental care because their parents are away trying to make a living in cities," the paper quoted Zhou Yongping, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, as saying in a national teleconference on Thursday.
The campaign will run from June 1 until September 30, with the participation of the administration, the ministries of public security, culture, and industry and information technology, as well as the civilization office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Zhou said local authorities would confiscate facilities and equipment belonging to illegal businesses, instead of simply punishing violators with fines. Those found violating laws would also face criminal punishment.
Tao Ran, a medical expert on Internet addiction at Beijing's Military General Hospital, said illegal cafes lured many pupils and middle school students away from their studies.
They could access unhealthy content, including obscene and violent images and even information about gun sales and weapons, he said.
Tao welcomed the campaign but worried that it would only have an impact in the short term.
"The overall general public will be mobilized to participate in the campaign," Zhou said.
The number of illegal Internet cafes is growing because of demand, the limited number of legal outlets, limited access to the Web and a lack of enforcement, Tao said.
Illegal Internet bars make large profits because they have much lower costs compared to registered outlets. Underground Internet bars also have poor quality computers, so even if they have many terminals the businesses are still cheaper to operate.
A national regulation released in 2004 requires the owners of registered Internet cafes to have a minimum of 1 million in the bank, 200 computers and an operating area of more than 300 sq m.