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China to allow Facebook, Twitter in free-trade zone

Liberalisation of Internet planned to make foreigners ‘feel at home’: report

China to allow Facebook, Twitter in free-trade zone
China’s ruling Communist Party routinely blocks sites like Facebook.

Social media networks and other websites blocked by the Chinese government are to be accessible in a planned free-trade zone in Shanghai, Reuters reported.

Unnamed government sources told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that rather than allow FTZ Internet services to be provided by China's three largest operators - China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom - bids were being sought from foreign telecoms companies.

China's Communist Party has blocked a number of online sites and services in recent years. In 2012 the New York Times' site was barred for unfavourable reporting of the financial affairs of then-Premier Wen Jiabao. Facebook and Twitter were blocked in 2009 for their roles in helping to organise violent demonstrations in the western province of Xinjiang.

The FTZ, due for launch on 29 September, is to act as a prototype for liberalisation of a number of economic elements, including taxation and interest rates. Relaxation of Internet policies is intended to make foreigners "feel like at home", the South China Morning Post quoted one government source as saying.

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

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