In what the Wall Street Journal calls the "strongest official measure yet to quell electronic expressions", Beijing officials are ordering users of microblogging sites to register their full legal name with the site in an effort to protect the Internet against "harmful information."
The Journal also reports that national secrets and other information that could present a threat to national security are banned. The Journal continues:
The move represents a potential turning point as the Internet has become an increasingly disruptive force for China's leaders ahead of once-a-decade transition next year, when China's top two leadership positions will change hands. It also comes as a rebellion by villagers in Wukan in the country's south, over local politicians' attempts to sell their farmland, has become the biggest of a recent string of uprisings exposing social and economic tensions plaguing the country. Villagers on Friday continued to seal off roads to prevent government security forces from entering.
In July, a high-speed train crash touched off an Internet debate about the human cost of China's warp-speed economic-development model. Microblog sites also became a platform for public outcry over school-bus safety and government spending after a recent spate of deadly school-bus crashes. Now, Internet censors are straining to prevent the unrest in the South from becoming a galvanizing subject of national controversy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the rules are limited currently to sites in Beijing -- although more are expected to follow -- and users will still be able to maintain their username on the surface level of the site. The Journal also reports that penalty for not registering names with the sites are not disclosed.
"If you want to post [information online], you have to take responsibility," said Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing municipal government. The Journal reports Wang as saying the government's intent is not to shut down the sites, which have become widely popular with its citizens, but to contribute to "the healthy growth" of the site.