updated 3/6/2007 9:03:23 PM ET 2007-03-07T02:03:23

China's second-largest mobile phone company plans to open 3,000 Internet cafes by the end of the year, exerting stronger state control over a sector once dominated by private enterprise, state-run radio reported Tuesday.

China Unicom already operates 400 Internet cafes in China and plans to start up as many as 200 more by year's end, China Radio International reported.

It said the telecom operator, whose shares are traded in New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai, will operate up to 2,800 more Web cafes through franchises.

The report cited Unicom's vice president, Li Zhengmao.

China has been moving to tighten controls over access to the Internet, closing down thousands of "wangba," or Web bars, installing ever more sophisticated filters and increasing surveillance of online activity.

Authorities say the campaign is aimed mainly at preventing youngsters from being exposed to pornographic or otherwise unsuitable materials. But it also targets information and sites deemed politically sensitive.

By allowing a state-controlled telecoms carrier to operate a large number of Internet cafes through a "chain store" system, the government can further tighten controls, the report said.

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