The Internet in China needs to be administered by additional laws because what was once a virtual world is now a substantial part of the real one, ChinaDaily reported on Thursday citing a senior government official.

The government should make efforts to strengthen the legislation of the Internet so it can be regulated effectively, Cai Mingzhao, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office, said at the UK-China Internet Roundtable meeting on Wednesday.

The Chinese government has already set up a basic legal framework that regulates Internet information, tackles cyber crime and protects network security.

However, Cai said the State must continually develop legislation to deal with new Internet-related issues as they arise, so the Internet can be managed.

There are now 338 million Internet users in China - more than a quarter of the total population. Some 181 million write blogs and the Internet is increasingly being seen as a new channel for public opinion.

Bloggers have played an important role in publicizing complaints, busting corrupt officials and reporting incidents, such as the retreat of Chinese government's mandatory order of Green Dam on personal computers, waitress Deng Yujiao's free of her punishment for stabbing a party official and the recent Urumqi riot.

But the challenge of managing blogs and bloggers has become an important issue for the Chinese government, said Liu Zhengrong, deputy director of the Internet affairs bureau of the State Council.

According to Liu, bloggers are prohibited from leaving 'harmful' or 'unhealthy' comments on the Internet in order to protect the general public.

Website administrators have responsibility to monitor and control the contents that are posted on their websites by bloggers, Liu said.

Harmful and unhealthy information, according to government laws, includes the spreading of rumors, slander, porn, gambling, violence, details of murder and terror and the instigating of crime.

However, for most internet users, the creation of a safer and healthier cyber space must include the freedom of expression first, which means more stipulation is clearly anachronistic.

Late in April Hangzhou municipal government adopted regulations, which require Internet portals under its administration to ask for the real identity of Internet users who register to blog or post opinions online, starting from May 2.

This has aroused strong opposition from Internet users.

What most of them worry about is not just the inconvenience such an stipulation will bring about but the scenario that real name registration will make it possible for the relevant government department to know who has said what online about government decisions and leaders.

At the same time, some people had reportedly been persecuted for posting online their opinions against the actions of some local governments.

A netizen who accused a local official of corruption in an online post is standing trial on a charge of slander in Shandong province.

Duan Lei, 28, from Cao county, is accused of publishing a message on websites, and in February alleging Guo Feng, secretary of the Zhuangzhai town Communist Party committee, took bribes and used his position to ensure his family won construction contracts, the Xinhua New Agency reported last Sunday.

The local police and procuratorate's act of accusing Duan of slander abuses government power to protect local officials' prestige, Li Yong, a well-known online writer and former reporter at Legal Daily, told China Daily.

Li said the government was using the case to prevent citizens from criticizing officials.

Guo reported the online post to police on Feb 25. Duan was detained and on July 3 he was charged with slander. The county procurator office said the posts have a harmful influence and disturb the social order.

The county police, however, found the posts had been viewed only 79 times after searching on major search engines Google and Baidu.

It proves the posts were not a harmful influence, Pu told the Beijing News.

In March, Wang Shuai from Lingbao, Henan province, was detained after he revealed Dawang government's illegal land acquisition in an online post.

After investigation, the provincial public security bureau director apologized to the public and a vice-director was suspended.

These incidents are unconstitutional and hurt the government's image, Zhu Lijia, a professor with the National School of Administration, told

Criminal sanctions should not be imposed on citizens for expressing opinions, like criticizing government, said Wang Shunan, an expert with the school of criminal and judicatory law of China University of Political Science and Law.

The Chinese government has closed hundreds of websites in an ongoing crackdown on online porn and vulgar content that in some cases has netted dissident sites. The government backed down on a plan to require that Green Dam filter software be pre-installed on all new computers.