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China

Shanghai free trade zone to enjoy uncensored Internet access

Chinese leaders have been quoted as saying that the planned Shanghai Free Trade Zone will be completely void of Internet censorship. Beijing wants foreign investors to feel "at home" in the pilot area.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported Tuesday that the ruling Communist Party had decided to lift all Internet controls in a pilot free trade zone in Shanghai to be opened on September 29.

It quoted party leaders as saying that free access to online content would be pivotal in luring foreign investors to the zone.

"In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home," an unidentified government representative said.

Flying a kite

The South China Morning Post also said the official had warned that investors might doubt the seriousness of the pilot project, if they couldn't get onto Facebook or read the New York Times online.

China has aggressively censored the Internet so far, routinely deleting online postings and blocking access to websites it deems inappropriate or politically sensitive.

The Shanghai Free trade Zone is widely seen to be pivotal in the government's drive to introduce more financial reforms underpinning China's endeavors to enact vital economic changes. The project is also a test bed for convertibility of China's yuan currency and further liberalization of tax rates as well as for reforms related to foreign direct investment.

hg/msh (dpa, Reuters)