The Guanxian County Cyber Cafe Shutdown

(Global TimesGuanxian county, Shandong Province, shutters all Internet bars to halt online rumors.  October 19, 2009.

What is this cartoon referring to?  You can't tell unless you have the background.  You search the Internet and there is only one article in English about the cyber cafes in Guanxian.

(China Daily)  Shandong county closes cyber cafes.  October 15, 2009.

Authorities in a county of Shandong Province have suspended the business of all local cyber cafes for more than two months in a drive to drag teenagers indulged in the online world back to school and reality. On July 29, local police ordered all 21 Internet cafes in Guanxian county, Liaocheng of East China's Shandong province, to suspend their business, China Youth Daily reported yesterday. "Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for local residents," Wang Zhenqian, deputy director of the county Party committee's publicity department, was quoted as saying.

Citizens were concerned about how much time their young children were spending on the Internet. But teenagers also were spending more and more time in Internet cafes and getting weary of studying. This is a serious problem in Guanxian and in the whole country, he said. "Everyone is clapping their hands in applause for what we have done. Authorities in other places want to do the same thing, but most of them don't dare to," he said.

Because of the suspension, the local government is giving up revenue, as each cyber cafe pays more than 1,000 yuan (US$150) in monthly taxes, said Lu Guoying, discipline inspection team leader of the county's industrial and commercial bureau. Government officials will not say whether the closing of the cafes is temporary or permanent.

The suspension in Guanxian county is not the first time government officials have shut down Internet cafes. In 2006, Fangshan county in North China's Shanxi province closed down its seven Internet cafes. In 2004, Chibi city of Hubei province shut down all of its 57 Internet cafes.

China has 338 million Internet users, and more than 60 percent are younger than 30, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. About 80 percent of Chinese primary students began using the Internet before age 9, according to latest survey of China Youth Association for Network Development.

The country's law prohibits minors from entering Internet cafes, and states that Internet cafes only can open their doors from 8 am to midnight. But many Internet bar owners break the law in order to make more profits, which has been criticized as a major cause of many youngsters' Internet addiction.

The suspension has sparked controversy, with both critics and supporters weighing in. "Instead of closing Internet cafes, parents should be blamed for giving their children improper education, which is the main causes of their children's Internet overuse," said Bu Wei, director of the research center for children and media under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It's inadvisable for officials to use such simple ways to solve a complex issue, he said.

What the authorities have done is illustrated by the saying, "give up eating for fear of choking," said a netizen on Baidu Tieba, one of the largest Chinese communication platform under search engine

Some residents, however, support the closings. "Guanxian authorities did the right thing. All cyber bars should be shut down," said Li Wenhua, a Jiangxi woman whose 15-year-old daughter was expelled from school for skipping school to play online game in cyber bars. "Fewer students have skipped school this semester since the suspension. I think Internet cafes should be closed permanently," a teacher surnamed Li with Guanxian Vocational Education School, was quoted as saying.

But even after you read this article, you won't realize that there is another round of rumor mongering going around in Chinese about the real reason behind the closings.

On October 14, 2009, the following post appeared at the Tianya Forum:

All Cyber Cafes In Guanxian County Closed For Two Months Already Due To A Tianya Forum Post

The specific Tianya Forum post has been 'harmonized' since.  It was the shocking <Tragic beyond belief -- a pregnant woman in Guanxian county, Shandhong province, was forced to undergo abortion, resulting in the deaths of mother and son> posted on June 15, 2009.  There were several tens of thousands of comments to that post.  Many angry netizens called the telephone numbers of the government and party leaders listed in the post.  It is still possible to find the post in the Google and Baidu caches.

Here is the relevant part from that June 15, 2009 post (found via

Today there was an incident at work.  The case is being spread all over  I think half of Guanxian already knows about it ... Rather than let other people spread rumors, let me tell everybody the facts.

The incident is basically this.

On June 9, the Family Planning Office seized a 9-month-pregnant woman who had an unauthorized pregnancy and took her to our hospital for induced abortion.  There were almost 20 people from the Family Planning Office but none of her family was present.  The pregnant fought with all might for the sake of her 9-month-old fetus!  If the baby was born, it was fully capable of living.  Her struggle and resistance with make everyone with a conscience feel sad.  But who dares to usurp the government policin in Guanxian county and save the pitiful mother and child?  Nobody can, because a policy that has been going on for decades cannot be overturned in a flash.

Her struggles were ultimately utile because she was with child.  Even a normal person could not stop the six or seven strong men from holding her down and giving her the injection to induce abortion.  She struggled to the end and a person (especially a mother) in desperation has unlimited strength!!  She got free once, twice, thrice but she did not get away.

Poor mother, poor child, even the heavens can only watch.  What kind of world is this!  There is no humanity left!

We can understand how she felt.  Besides, I am a mother too.  A 9-month-old fetus is already very vital except it does not have the ability to protect itself.  Baby, you didn't get to see the world because you have to leave already.  Do not hate your father and mother.  They love you very much.  If they didn't love you so much, they would not held up until now.  But the world is ugly and you are better off not coming here.

On the morning of June 12, the mother experienced pains that were indicative of delivery.  Any mother would be delighted, but your mother was terrified!  You arrived on 5:50am but only your body came out because you were poisoned to death inside your mother's womb already.  Your existence was a crime in the eyes of the Family Planning Office director.  Baby, I hope that you are happy in heaven.  It is so much better than here!

When you came out, the final hope in your mother's heart was dashed.  She was thoroughly desperate.  As soon as the fetus came out, massive bleeding took place.  The hospital used all possible means.  The bleeding stopped briefly but then resumed non-stop.  The process was very fast.  We even hooked the mother to a breathing machine.  But it happened too fast.  We did not save your mother.  She wanted to go with you . You are too small, you cannot take care of yourself and your mother was worried about you!

I hope that you and your mother are happy in heaven!!!!

Was this the reason why the cyber cafes were closed in Guanxian?  About 30% of homes in Guanxian have computers, so that shutting down the cyber cafes won't stop this particular Internet post from being read.  Here is the longer explanation from the China Youth Daily news story in the Tianya Forum post:

(translated excerpts)

Guanxian Public Security Bureau Internet Supervisory Team captain Wang Jingkui calculated that there are exactly 21 cyber cafes with 14 owners.  None of the owners know why they cannot resume business.  They only know that the enforcement action did not just came suddenly.  As early as the Chinese New Year, there were signs already.

Two days before Chinese New Year's Eve, the cyber cafes were subjected to surprise inspection visits.  "Problems can always be found."  The owners are honest.  "Sometimes someone who looks old enough will be admitted.  Or else a regular customer forgot to bring his ID and it would be bad relations not to admit him."  On that occasion, each cyber cafe was fined 10,000 yuan. 

Guanxian is an "economically weak" county in Shandong province.  The cyber cafes charge 1 yuan per hour.  Even during the good times before when not much competition existed, the monthly profit was more than 5,000 yuan per month after subtracting rent, utility, Internet access and employee salaries.  Nowadays, they are lucky get a monthly profit of 3,000 yuan.  Therefore, the 10,000 yuan fine really hurt them.

But the 10,000 yuan fine did not help the 21 cyber cafes escape the "big earthquake."  Beginning June 21, the police conducted inspections of the cyber cafes.  A single violation was enough to get the owner invited down to the police station to sign an agreement to accept the penalty without contestation.  On July 29, seventeen cyber cafes were notified to cease business for two months for "re-organization."  The other four cyber cafes were not charged with any violations, but they voluntarily closed down like the others.  "We had no choice.  If they found no problems at first, they will keep coming back to check."

Finally, the big day came on September 29, two months later.  Instead of being allowed to re-open, the 14 owners received telephone calls from the Internet Supervisory Department to "stay closed for the moment."

So the cyber cafe owners and the young people who missed the Internet began to speculate on "the motives of the people upstairs."  Rumors ran amok.  Some people believed that "some trouble took place" at the cyber cafes, but they could not say what specific trouble it was.  A cyber cafe owner found an Internet post that was critical about the Guanxian county family planning office and said that the trouble was due to people making those kinds of statements on the Internet.  Several government officials all said, "That post was quickly gone."  Meanwhile, the Guanxian Forum has just switched from real-name registration to anonymous commenting, which perplexed even Guanxian Public Security Bureau Internet Supervisory Team captain Wang Jingkui.

Other people believed that the recently appointed county mayor hated the Internet because his own child was too interested in the Internet. "According to information, he said at a county meeting of all cadres that all cyber cafes will be shut down by the end of the year," said a cyber cafe owner who claimed to have "inside connections." 

Guanxian county public department executive vice-president Wang Zhenqian scoffed at the rumor about the county mayor.  "The mayor came from Liucheng.  His wife and son still live there.  Why would he hate the cyber cafes in Guanxian county?  You tell me.  Cyber cafes cannot be shut down solely on the basis of the preference of a mayor."

Wang said, "People are most concerned about their own children.  When the cyber cafes were shuttered, the children became better.  This is a practical way of dealing with people's livelihood.  We did so only because the parents demanded it."

Another reason why Wang Zhenqian thought the "re-organization" was good was that the cyber cafes were frequented by "social idlers."  These people congregate in cyber cafes to cause trouble and bring about society instability.  "During the 60th anniversary of National Day, they lose their base from which they create trouble."  But the cyber cafe owners found this explanation inexplicable.  They remembered that the last cyber cafe re-organization in Guanxian took place during the SARS period in 2003.  At the time, young people had nowhere to go and ended up drinking in the streets.  "They even smashed the barriers on the streets."

Wang Zhenqian said: "If they cannot re-organize, they should stay closed."  He said that this re-organization of cyber cafes in Guanxian "will sacrifice the interests of a small number of businesses" in return for the "approval of the majority of the citizens."  He said that other places may want to do the same, "but they don't have as much will as we do."