China Won't Allow Twitter, Facebook Access in Shanghai Free Trade Zone After All

3:01 AM PST 09/26/2013 by Clifford Coonan

Authorities insist no changes to China's Great Firewall are imminent.

China will not, after all, be lifting Great Firewall restrictions on Facebook and Twitter in a Shanghai free trade zone, despite reports to the contrary, as authorities insisted no changes in Internet policy were on the cards.

The People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, denied a recent report in the South China Morning Post saying that people would be allowed to access Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times and other politically sensitive, banned websites within a groundbreaking free trade zone set to launch this month in the country's financial hub, Shanghai.

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"Today (our) journalists obtained the information from a very powerful channel that these reports are wrong," said the People's Daily.

The new liberal approach would not apply to matters of ideology, and the authorities would remain vigilant to the use of the Internet to promote prostitution, drugs, gambling and smuggling, the paper said.

China's Communist Party enjoys the business opportunities offered by the Internet but is wary of the platform it offers for dissenting voices and any questioning of single-party rule.

At the same time, the central government seems prepared to relax some controls to help it promote the free trade zone in Shanghai's Pudong financial district, which is a key part of its efforts to sell the city as a financial capital to rival New York and London.

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Facebook and Twitter were blocked by Beijing in mid-2009 after riots in the restive western province of Xinjiang, which authorities say were boosted by the social networking sites.

The free trade zone has been compared to the rules allowed by former supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, who decided to open up the Shenzhen special economic zones to foreign investors about three decades ago, which sparked China's ongoing economic boom.

Shanghai's free trade zone will be formally launched on Sept. 29, the Securities Times reported earlier this month.

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