China to Prosecute Adult Web ‘Gang’

Matt O'Conner
BEIJING — China’s Anhui Provincial Internet police this week rounded up what it is calling an organized gang of webmasters and staffers, accusing them of operating the country's largest illegal adult website.

Eleven suspects will be prosecuted in Hefei Intermediate People’s Court following the arrests. They are the latest in a highly publicized sweep being touted by the government as the single-largest international anti-pornography crackdown, which so far has landed thousands of people behind bars.

After a month-long investigation, police said they determined the defendants had used offshore servers, including at least one in the United States, to register more than 300,000 subscribers to the websites.

Ten men and one woman face charges. Police said they include school teachers and public servants who provided technical support and marketing expertise to a twelfth suspect, Wang Yong, who is being called the site's "ring leader." Yong, authorities say, built the server in the United States and will be tried seperately.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, the site was launched in 2003. Run primarily from the province of Anhui, it offered access to 6,000 videos and 100,000 pictures. Authorities said the site's records show more than 400 million visits before being shut down.

Chinese law forbids the dissemination of explicit or hardcore materials of any kind, including those involving only consenting adults. The law considers such activities crimes against the people and the state.

According to the group Human Rights Watch, since 1995 China has passed more than 60 sets of regulations regarding Internet content. Most are broadly worded, giving authorities wide birth concerning what they consider to be criminal activities as well as punishment for those activities.

Last year, the government announced a “war on pornography,” passing stiffer penalties — including life in prison — for “severe cases,” which include websites that have been clicked on more than 250,000 times.

In November, a Chinese adult webmaster was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of peddling pornography.

China's police ministry hands out rewards of up to 2,000 yaun, or $330, to people who report adult sites. The government also has spent millions in an attempt to control what citizens view over the Internet and block access to adult material, including the mandatory installation of filtering software on all public computers.