Chinese internet users, already the largest in the world, have grown even more to 384 million by the end of 2009, a Chinese research group said Friday.

The online population in the world's most populous nation grew by 28.9 percent last year from the end of 2008, according to report published by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC).

Meanwhile, Chinese users who use their mobile phones to access the internet also grew by 120 million last year to 233 million. According to the report, this was due to the country’s fast expansion of the third-generation (3G) network which allows high-speed transmission of images and video.

The report showed that Chinese web users are most interested in music, news and search engine services.
China's fast-growing online population has turned the Internet into a forum for citizens to express their opinions in a way rarely seen in a country where the traditional media is under strict government control.

Earlier on Tuesday, Google said that it planned to stop censoring its search results in China after discovering the theft of some of its intellectual property during a sophisticated cyberattack which originated in China.

Google learned that Gmail accounts of human rights advocates had been broken into. It acknowledged that, as a result, it would likely no longer be welcome to operate in China.