More Web freedom in China FTZ

More Web freedom in China FTZ

HONG KONG - China's first free-trade zone (FTZ) will allow access to Facebook, Twitter and other websites banned nationwide, in a rare exception to strict Internet controls, a Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday.

The Shanghai FTZ, approved last month to boost competitiveness, will also lift a block imposed on The New York Times last year, the South China Morning Post said, citing unnamed government sources.

"In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the FTZ, we must think about how we can make them feel at home," it quoted a source as saying.

"If they can't get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may wonder naturally how special the FTZ is compared with the rest of China."

The zone, set in China's commercial capital, would also allow foreign telecommunications firms to compete against state-owned counterparts in bidding for licences, the Post said.

The authorities in recent years banned popular social-media sites Facebook and Twitter, which were instrumental in the wave of uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa from late 2010, in what became known as the Arab Spring.

Last year, the authorities blocked The New York Times after it cited financial records showing relatives of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao had controlled assets worth at least US$2.7 billion (S$3.4 billion) - a report that China branded a smear.

The Shanghai FTZ was approved by the State Council, or China's Cabinet, to try to establish a true international trade and finance centre, and push reforms of the world's second-largest economy.

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