China issues licenses for online bulletin boards

China's Ministry of Information Industry has begun issuing licenses for companies that offer online bulletin board services in a move to more closely regulate Internet discussion forums.

Sohu.com Inc. and Sina.com, both prominent mainland Chinese portals, have already received their bulletin board licenses, the companies said Thursday.

Netease.com Inc., another mainland Internet portal, has not yet received its license but expects one to be issued by regulators in the next several days, according to company spokeswoman Liang Xiangnong. Netease's license will take longer to process because it applied for the license through its office in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, instead of the capital, Beijing, she said.

Online bulletin boards are a popular channel for Chinese Internet users to express views on political, economic and social issues. Bulletin board operators in China are known to frequently monitor and erase politically sensitive postings. In some cases, government officials have intervened, arresting individuals who post messages that challenge the authority or policies of government.

In one such case, a 27-year-old teacher in China's Sichuan province named Jiang Shihua was jailed last August for two years for posting an anti-government message on a local bulletin board.

A report issued last week by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace cited China as a country where the authorities have kept close control of Internet activities through a mix of monitoring sites and encouraging content providers to be pro-regime.

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