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Internet Café
From The World Journal
May 10, 2003

City Councilman John Liu of Flushing is going to propose a law to ban students in 12th grade and under from going to Internet cafes during school hours in an effort to prevent students from cutting classes.

In his proposal, those who violate will be fined from $150 to $300. However, the proposed ban is limited only to teenagers [hanging out at Internet cafes] during school hours.

Liu made the announcement along with the State Assemblyman Barry S. Grodenchik and representatives from the 109th Precinct in Flushing and the 111st Precinct in Bayside, and the principal from Intermediate School 237. The police expressed support for the proposal.

Julio Ordonez, Commanding Officer of the 111st Precinct, said Internet cafes are very popular in Bayside. However, it is a new business and there is no law to regulate it. A new law will give both the police and business owners more authority to regulate the industry.

According to Liu's proposal, the law targets the privately-owned Internet cafes, not the computing facilities in public libraries and schools. Internet café owners are required to ban students in 12th grade and under from entering those cafes during school hours. However, the ban is not in effect on the weekend or after school hours. Students who hold high school diplomas or equivalent are exempt from the ban. This also applies to students with parental supervision or permission to leave school early.

In addition to the Chinese community, Internet cafes are also popular among the Korean community. Many Korean students also cut classes to hang out at the Internet cafes. Principal Joseph Cantara of Intermediate School 237 said many of those who cut classes could be found in Internet cafes. He said he had asked the business owners to self-regulate, but received no response and turned to City Councilman Liu.

Most of the Internet cafes in Flushing are owned by Koreans. According to statistics from the 109th Precinct, there are at least 15 Korean-owned Internet cafes in Flushing. The police said more social problems could be created if those cafes are open to teenagers without any restrictions. Many robberies, thefts and fights have occurred in the Internet cafes in Flushing and Bayside.

Liu said the city government does not want to set regulations on every aspect of the students’ lives, but they should at least stay in school during school hours. The proposed law can only apply to school hours. It is the parents’ responsibility to make sure that the students do not stay late in Internet cafes.

The proposal will be discussed in the City Council Consumer Affairs Committee meeting next Wednesday, and a series of public hearings will be held to gather ideas from the community. If the proposal is well received, it will take at least 10 months to be formally written into law.

Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung

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