Beijing - China's ruling Communist Party plans to allow unrestricted internet access in a small free-trade zone to be launched in Shanghai, a report said Tuesday.
The party decided to lift internet controls to help attract foreign businesses to the planned China (Shanghai) Pilot Free-Trade Area, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted sources as saying.
It would also allow foreign telecommunications firms to bid for licences to provide internet services in the zone, the newspaper said.
“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,” the newspaper quoted one anonymous 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.
International rights groups have long criticized China as one of the worst nations for restricting freedom of information.
The government routinely censors China-based websites and blocks access by the country's estimated 600 million internet users to many overseas websites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and human rights and news sites.
Police have jailed or fined dozens of rights activists and other internet users who posted online content that was deemed illegal.
The Shanghai project, expected to be formally opened on Sunday, will combine four existing free-trade zones and port districts into a new area to pilot key financial reforms underpinning China's next stage of economic reform, according to the government.