China to block sexual-health, medical websitesBEIJING – Beginning in July, China’s crackdown on Internet smut will extend to sex-related medical and research sites. The Chinese Ministry of Health this week announced new regulations that require medical and health sites to install software that will block any visitors who are not professionals with approval to work in sex-related fields.

The new regulations note, “It is prohibited to spread pornographic content in the name of sex-related scientific research.” In addition, “The health sections of Web portals are not allowed to conduct sex-related research services.” The regulations do not define “sex-related research services.”

Critics of the rules say limiting access to online sexual health information, chat channels and discussion boards could have profound effects in a country where many people are too embarrassed to speak about the topic even with doctors. Sexual-health education — particularly as it concerns sexually transmitted diseases — is vital to the country’s wellbeing, critics say.

Since the first of the year, China has made a dedicated effort to curtail the dissemination of pornography, anti-government sentiment and other types of material on the Web. The Chinese government recently has come under increasing fire for mandating all new personal computers manufactured after July 1 be equipped with “Green Dam” filtering software.

Authorities insist the country’s official censorship efforts are designed to protect children and vulnerable others from the deleterious social effects of porn and violence, but critics accuse the government of limiting personal expression and exposure to world culture in an effort to control the population’s thoughts.