Chinese porn site owners who tried to hide from Web police by moving their illegal ventures to foreign servers are the latest victims in China's crackdown on online smut.
The latest arrests or detainments go a step beyond past Chinese measures to combat online porn, which conservative officials see as an assault on cultural values. Pornography is illegal in China.
They also follow arrests of owners of mobile porn Web sites, a global controversy over Internet porn-filtering software mandated by Beijing for new PCs and a government decree that only health professionals and researchers will be allowed access to sexual health Web sites.
The expansive crackdown on Web porn, launched early this year, may be meant to clean up the Internet before this fall, when the People's Republic of China will mark the 60th anniversary of its founding.
Police have "cracked the cases" of two Chinese porn sites that the owners ran on U.S. servers and updated through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN), the official Xinhua news agency said late Sunday.
Police also located two suspects who sold U.S.-based proxy services to other Chinese operators of pornographic Web pages, the report said.
Most owners of Chinese porn sites have started renting server space abroad to avoid detection by China's Web police, it said.
Savvy Chinese Internet users often access forbidden online content through tools like VPNs and overseas proxy servers, which can redirect their Web surfing through a foreign IP (Internet Protocol) address.
Xinhua gave few details on how police tracked down the suspects but said police linked an online user name to one man.
Police have also arrested multiple staff from a Chinese company that created more than 40 pornographic WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) sites for mobile users, Xinhua said. The company had made over 1 million yuan (US$150,000) selling advertisements on the sites, the report said.
China has closed thousands of Web sites and arrested dozens in its campaign against online porn this year. A government mandate, now indefinitely postponed, that Internet filtering software be bundled with all new PCs could still be enforced in coming weeks or months.
China briefly blocked Google.com and other Google Web sites last month after warning the company of punishment if it did not remove pornographic links from its search results.
China's crackdown took a new angle when the Ministry of Health announced that, starting this month, only health professionals and researchers will be able to view Web sites that link to sex-related studies. The rules aim to prevent pornographic sites from disguising themselves as Web pages about sexual health and throw up a set of bureaucratic registration requirements for companies and organizations that want to offer sex-related information online.