China's number of Net surfers growing daily

Beijing - China will probably have 78 million Internet users by the end of the year, keeping its position as second only to the United States for the number of people online, state media reported Saturday.

The figure was announced by Hu Qiheng, chairwoman of the Internet Society of China, a government-backed industry regulator, the Xinhua news agency said on its website.

It marks an increase of 32 percent from 59.1 million users at the end of 2002.

China's government has conflicting attitudes towards the Internet, as it is happy about upgrading the population's technological skills but worried people might be influenced by subversive ideas found online.

A recent series of detentions and trials of high-profile cyber-dissidents reflects this concern, as does a plan to police what sites people visit at the country's 110 000 Internet cafes. - Sapa-AFP

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