Microblog users in Beijing who do not register using their real names by mid-March will be banned from posting comments, a local official said yesterday, as authorities tighten their grip on the web.
The Chinese capital recently ordered weibo users — Chinese microblogging sites similar to Twitter — to register using their real names, making it easier for authorities to track them if they post sensitive material.
The move comes as nervous authorities tighten their grip on the Internet amid fears it could help fuel unrest as China prepares to undergo a once-in-a-decade leadership transition this year.
An official at the Beijing government surnamed Tian said that from March 16, those who failed to register with their real names would no longer be able to post or repost comments.
According to Xinhua news agency, users who do not comply will not be kicked off microblogs altogether, as they will still be able to read other people’s postings.
Beijing was the first city to introduce real-name registration rules to curb the spread of “rumors and vulgarities” and since then, other cities such as Shanghai and the south’s Guangzhou and Shenzhen, have followed suit.
With more than half-a-billion Chinese now online, authorities are concerned about the power and influence of the Internet to spark unrest in a country that maintains tight controls on traditional media.
The government already censors the web in a system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China.”
However, people are still using weibo sites to vent their anger over official corruption and scandals by re-posting information and images as fast as the authorities can take them down.
Residents in the southern province of Guangdong protesting against land seizures and a power plant in December posted photos and reports on weibo sites, defying official efforts to block news of the incidents.