The Internet is big in China. Maybe bigger than in the United States. In fact, the number of Internet users in the more populous Asian nation has passed this country's 220 million Web watchers.

There are 253 million Internet users in China, and the number is growing at a phenomenal pace, jumping 50 percent in just the past year. That's a lot of minds to keep under control. But China's repressive government is determined to try.

Only after strong criticism from Olympics officials did China agree Friday that the same Internet-use restrictions placed on its citizens would not be imposed on the thousands of journalists covering the Games.

China's plans to block journalists from accessing some Web sites had been a surprise. Only two weeks ago, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge had said there would be no censorship.

Was Rogge misled? Olympics officials will only say they had a different understanding when they discussed Internet use. One must wonder what else the IOC misunderstood in 2001 when it deemed China would be a suitable Olympics host.

China still may insist on some Internet restrictions. If they are too severe, reporters won't have access to sites that could help them better understand what is happening outside the Olympics. Web sites on the previous forbidden list included not just those of activist groups such as Amnesty International but also the BBC's Chinese language agency.

There was also a troubling report Tuesday by Sen. Sam Brownback (R., Kan.) that China had ordered international hotel chains to track electronic communications by their guests. The hope is that the Olympics will help make China freer. But its actions to date show how hard that will be.