Beijing will open access to banned websites like Facebook for guests and journalists during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing starting this week, Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao newspaper reported.
The move to allow access to such websites as Google and BBC at the APEC media center marks the first time that China is relaxing its internet restrictions for a major international event.
Popular social network platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been blocked in China since 2009, although resourceful netizens manage to gain access by illegally jumping over the country’s Great Firewall.
“China’s internet is open and managed in accordance with regulations. As we’ve promised, authorities will spare no efforts in holding a successful summit. And the media center has advanced facility including internet access,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
But independent commentator Chen Jie said the relaxation is still “very limited”, similar to access to foreign TV channels in luxury hotels.
“It’s a sort of special measure, which has not transformed the status quo of limited access to internet for most Chinese citizens”, Chen was quoted as saying.
Chen urged Beijing to take the APEC summit as an opportunity to expand internet access nationwide. “That would show confidence in the Chinese culture,” he said.
Lu Wei, director of the State Internet Information Office, denied a report that it would be impossible for Facebook to enter China. “Foreign Internet companies entering China must abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and we welcome all well-renowned global internet firms to enter the Chinese market,” Lu said.
Meanwhile, authorities are rushing to keep the air clean for the summit. Schools and government offices in the capital have been granted a six-day holiday during the event.
Mourners at crematorium of Beijing’s Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery will also be banned from incinerating funeral clothes for the first two weeks of November, Beijing News reported.
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