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China Internet users soar

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After a year of massive growth, China is kicking off its Olympic year with 210 million Internet users, just 5 million behind the U.S., the world's largest Internet market.

The China Internet Network Information Center said last week in a report that, in 2007, China's number of Internet users increased 53% from the 137 million counted at the end of 2006. At the end of June, that number stood at 162 million.

About 16% of the Chinese population now has access to the Internet. The global average is 19%, the report said.

The CNNIC report showed that China has 1.5 million Web sites, up 78% year-over-year.

China is said to employ tens of thousands of Internet police to monitor Web sites for content objectionable to the Communist Party, such as pornography, political dissent or nonapproved religions.

Last year, China began sending animated police officers across Web sites nationwide to remind surfers that their Web access is monitored.