There was no sign, but Gedong’s teenagers knew the way. Down a dusty alley just off Jicui Park and a few minutes’ walk from local schools, the curtained door beckoned. Inside, in a dingy back room off the kitchen, a clutch of adolescent boys crowded around six computers and stared at the images flickering on their screens.
For the equivalent of 35 cents an hour, the youths were playing computer games in an underground Internet cafe, one of a half-dozen information-age speak-easies in this little farming and coal-mining town in Shanxi province 220 miles southwest of Beijing. For those unable to afford their own computers — the vast majority here — going online in a clandestine dive has become the only option; the local Communist Party leader banned Internet cafes nine months ago as a bad influence on minors…
Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based media watchdog group, said Hu’s government has deployed “armies of informants and cyber-police” and sophisticated computer programs to prevent Chinese Internet users from connecting with sites the party disapproves of or reading postings that stray from political orthodoxy. Sifting the acceptable from the unacceptable costs China “an enormous amount,” the group said, without providing a specific number.