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China has tightened restrictions on Internet use, ordering bars that offer access to register users with the police, according to state media.

The rules issued last week come amid a crackdown on Internet political activity that caused an outcry when a Shanghai man was imprisoned for giving e-mail addresses to dissidents abroad.

Under the rules, bars that rent time to customers on Internet-linked computer terminals will have to be licensed by police, the Workers Daily newspaper said today.

Such bars and cafes, increasingly common in major Chinese cities, had been one of the few ways Chinese could receive e-mail or look at websites anonymously.

The Workers Daily newspaper did not give any details of the rules, but the state-run China News Service said bar managers would have to be licensed and register their customers.

The government has encouraged the rapid spread of Internet use in China, but closely monitors its 1.5 million registered users. Service providers are required to register customers with the authorities. Barriers have been installed to block access to sites deemed subversive or pornographic.

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