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Tuesday 25th October 2016

China closes Hep B forum

3rd December 2007

A website running an information service and online forums for carriers of the Hepatitis B virus in China was closed by the authorities at the end of November, Radio Free Asia reports.


An official on duty at the Beijing municipal telecommunications bureau said they had received many phone calls about the closure of the site.

"It is probably because they neglected to file a required application," the official said.

"This website has been running for six years now without running into any problems. If there were any additional formalities required, they should have notified us ahead of time. But we haven't been allowed any leeway at all. They just shut it down immediately. This is an illegal act," said Lu Jun a forum moderator who also acts as a consultant for the NGO that owns the site.

China now has 120 million known carriers of Hepatitis B. The website has been a strong force in the past three years in fighting widespread social - and official - discrimination against them.

Lu said the organisers had already been in contact with the Beijing municipal telecoms bureau, which is in charge of handing out operating licenses to web publishers and internet data centres.

"They told us we should be registering as a healthcare service provider. We didn't in fact think we were providing such services. But we are still being closed down under that category. The feedback from the Health Ministry was that our forums were inappropriate," Lu said.

"After all, [the Ministry reasoned] what can people who have the same illness say to each other? They don't need to talk to each other. If they are sick they can go to the hospital to seek treatment. They criticised this and that. The only forum they allowed was the science one. This is totally unacceptable."

Another forum moderator, Guo Dong, told Radio Free Asia that the website had provided the only hope in the lives of some Hep B carriers.

Guo said many people came to this forum when they were on the brink of psychological breakdown, to get a little emotional support.

"These closures are going to affect a lot of people. In the past we have had a lot of people on the forums talking about committing suicide. Whenever we saw someone talking like that, we immediately found out their location and found a volunteer to go and support them."

"There was a young lad in Shenzhen recently who was going to jump off a building ... and we sent someone round there to talk him down. So, this website has really helped a lot of people."

China’s internet authorities issued a new set of rules earlier this year, aimed at curbing the spread of “interactive? internet sites such as bulletin boards (BBS), chat rooms, blogs, and discussion forums.

Amid thousands of “mass incidents,? protests, sit-ins, disputes, and riots reported across the country in official statistics annually, the authorities have a perennial fear of the informal connections made possible by civil organisations, especially with the speed and increasing availability of the internet to all but the poorest in China.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan and Ding Xiao. Service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.



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