China lawmakers eye banning children from Internet cafes

China's lawmakers are considering banning children under 18 years of age from Internet cafes, as the centers have become hotbeds for online gaming and crime, an AFP report quoted state press reports as saying.

According to the AFP report, a draft law before the National People's Congress - China's parliament - also sought to address the problem of children succumbing to online gaming addictions, the China Daily said.

'Internet cafes "&brkbar; have become hotbeds for online gaming and chatting, and even crimes such as gambling and drug use,' the paper said.

The chairman of the law committee in congress, Yang Jingyu, told parliament that he believed Internet cafes played a 'negative role' in youngsters' development.

'If there were no Internet cafes, students would be able to concentrate on their studies better,' the paper quoted him as saying.

His draft law would ban children under 18 years old from Internet cafes, while authorizing research into new technology to help fight online addictions, the paper said.

But other lawmakers said the law would be impossible to enforce, and preventing youngsters from using the Internet could stifle budding information technology talent.

'For teenagers older than 16, who already earn their own money, it is unreasonable to forbid them from entering Internet cafes,' parliament standing committee member Ye Rutang was quoted in the report as saying.

China, which has at least 123 million Internet users, maintains an ambivalent attitude towards the Internet, valuing it as an engine of economic growth but fearing its subversive potential.

The country has for years waged an online battle to censor the Internet of pornographic and violent content, while also stifling political and religious material it believes could spark social unrest, according to the AFP report.