updated 2/14/2005 9:23:10 PM ET 2005-02-15T02:23:10

Chinese authorities shut down more than 12,575 Internet cafes from October to December last year for operating illegally, the government said.

The purpose of the crackdown was to create a "safer environment for young people in China," the official Xinhua News Agency said Sunday. It didn't give details of the violations, but said the businesses closed "were mainly located nearby primary schools and middle schools."

China promotes Internet use for business and education, but communist authorities complain that Internet cafes harm public morality by giving children access to violent games and sexually explicit material.

However, the government controls what the public can see online and blocks access to Web sites deemed pornographic or subversive. Internet cafes are banned near schools and the hours that children can use them are restricted.

China has the world's second-largest population of Internet users after the United States, with 87 million people online.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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