INTERNET FREEDOM
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Shanghai free-trade zone

Report on internet freedom distracts from China's economic reforms: Global Times

Global Times criticises article on increased online access in Shanghai for distracting from China's economic reforms and sparking a debate on an internet or cultural 'special zone'.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 1:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 6:07pm

A Chinese state-owned newspaper today criticised the South China Morning Post for publishing an article saying internet users in Shanghai’s free-trade zone would in future have access to Facebook and Twitter.

The Global Times blamed the report for distracting people from China’s economic reforms and sparking debate on an internet or cultural “special zone”.

The Post reported yesterday Beijing would lift the ban within Shanghai’s free-trade zone on websites considered politically sensitive by the government, including Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times' portal.

The news led to numerous reactions on China's social media, with many internet users voicing positive opinions in anticipation of the increase in internet freedom. Others expressed disbelief or speculated on the future of internet censorship in the mainland.

In its English-language editorial, the Global Times, overseen by the Communist Party’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily, said the Post’s report diverted attention “from the economic pioneering of this free-trade zone to a possible internet or cultural ‘special zone’”.

“Open internet access is nothing that deserves overwhelming attention, because it is designed to facilitate the international business environment within the zone,” it wrote.

Shanghai’s free-trade zone, which reportedly opens on Sunday, will span nearly 29 square kilometres of the city’s Pudong New Area.

Beijing decided to lift the ban on certain websites in the zone in order to welcome overseas companies and to satisfy foreign nationals living and working in the area, a government source told the Post anonymously, because of the politically sensitive nature of the issue.

The media in Hong Kong pays special attention to the free-trade zone because it is concerned Shanghai will steal its limelight; however, Shanghai cannot replicate Hong Kong’s success because the two cities have different histories of development and geographical conditions, the Global Times added in its Chinese-language editorial.