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Making it easy for netizens to report crimes, etc.

Editorial Staff

For all the criticism (mainly from the USA, it has to be said) of China's approach to the internet, there are actually lessons that the anarchic world of the global internet can learn. One is a stellar initiative from the Beijing Police.

Imagine, if you will, walking into a police station and saying "I want to report a crime." That's easy, if you are wandering around town, become a victim, and see a neighbourhood police station nearby.

But what do you do when your life is conducted through the less personally involving world via a computer screen?

The answer, if you visit an increasing number of Chinese websites, is to click on the Cybercop link at the bottom of the page. And there, spread out in front of you, are policemen and women, waiting to take your report.

It's not a new idea: the website has been active at http://www.bj.cyberpolice.cn/ since 1998

From the left the desks are marked for "porn," "fraud," "contraband," "virus and hacker," "games" and "other."

Contraband includes fake or other outlawed goods as well as illegally imported items.

The service applies only to those in Beijing (when users click on one of the desks, a warning page appears saying "if you are in Beijing, please proceed, or else return" and it has "proceed" and "back" buttons. This is, of course, logical; how else would the police be able to confirm both the legitimacy and veracity of the report.

Even allowing for this limitation, it's a very good concept.