China Unblocks Facebook, Twitter In Free-Trade Zone

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China is opening internet access to different websites blocked by its government such as social networks, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter.

China Unblocks Facebook, Twitter In Free-Trade Zone

Chinese government established a free-trade zone

The Chinese government established a free-trade zone (FTZ) Shanghai wherein blocked websites will now be open and accessible, according to a report from South China Morning Post.

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The newspaper based in Hong Kong obtained information from unidentified sources indicating that authorities in China would also accept proposals and applications for licenses from foreign telecommunication companies to provide internet services in the free-trade zone.

Chinese government is aggressive in blocking internet access

The Chinese government is aggressive in blocking internet access, and regularly deletes postings which it considers inappropriate, particularly sensitive issues regarding the political issues in the country.

Last year, The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT) was blocked after publishing a detailed report regarding the huge amount of wealth accumulated by the family of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Chinese hackers also attacked the website of the American newspaper including the computers of its 53 employees. The New York Times suspected that the perpetrators of the cyber attack had connections with Chinese military.

Facebook and Twitter were blocked after the deadly riots

In 2009, the websites of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter were blocked after the deadly riots that occurred in western provinces of Xinjiang. Authorities claimed that the violence was encouraged through social networking sites.

China will formally open the Shanghai FTZ on September 29. Prior to its launching, the Chinese government will test the conversion for its Yuan currency, further liberalization of interest rates, and the reforms in foreign direct investment and taxation.

According to an unidentified government source who spoke with South China Morning Post, the objective of unblocking websites in the Shanghai FTZ is to make foreigners “feel like home.” The source added, “If they can’t get onto Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China.”

Early this month, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) discussed cooperation with the head of the State Information Office of the Republic of China, the agency responsible in regulating the internet in the country. The details of their meeting were not disclosed to the public. In a message delivered to a crowd at Cheung Kong Graduate School, Sandberg said, “I believe the time is right for change. I believe that China can lead… This is a country that understands that change needs to happen to make things better for the next generation.”

According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper, the three major telecommunications companies in China were already informed regarding the possible entry of foreign competition in the Shanghai FTZ.

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