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China's online population nears 650 million: govt

[BEIJING] The number of Internet users in China has risen to nearly 650 million, authorities said over the weekend, as the world's largest online population continues to rise.

There were 648 million Internet users in China at the end of 2014, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The figure represents an increase of 30 million over 2013.

China defines its online population as those who have used the Internet at least once in the last six months.

China already had more web users than any other country in the world.

It is home to a huge e-commerce market and the web has been used by citizens to spotlight government abuses, creating a concern for the ruling Communist Party.

Beijing maintains tight controls over the Internet, blocking websites it deems politically sensitive in a system dubbed the "Great Firewall of China" and encouraging social media companies to censor user-generated content.