BEIJING, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- China's efforts to set legal curbs on Internet speech will protect, not harm, freedom of expression in the country, said an expert in an article publicized by Xinhua on Wednesday.
Only by setting boundaries and a "bottom line" can order and freedom of expression be ensured online, said Li Yunlong, a professor with the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, in the article.
"The Internet is not an arena free from legal restrictions," Li said.
It can only achieve openness and ensure the public's rights of participation, expression and supervision with the prerequisite of establishing orders, he added.
With the fast growth of the Internet since the mid 1990s, China is ushering in an unprecedented digital era with about 618 million netizens in 2013 compared with 620,000 in 1997, when the country had only 299,000 computers with Internet access.
"Active government input in building the Internet has offered a new channel for the public to deliver speech and express views," Li said.
The Internet has become an expression tool for citizens and their primary source of information, according to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center this month.
Figures from the report show that China has 490 million consumers of online news, 430 million bloggers, 270 million people using microblogs, and 277 million social network users.
"Online remarks have now become crucial elements in shaping public opinion," Li said.
The Internet is now an important platform for the public to participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs, communicate and conduct exchanges, and obtain knowledge, according to the professor.
Governments at all levels also solicit public opinions online when they introduce policies, laws and regulations, he added.