For any Chinese citizen eager to share cat memes and hashtags with the rest of the world, your chance is coming very soon. Starting this month, the Chinese government will make available Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times. Don’t get too excited, however, because the newly-unbanned websites will only be unbanned in what China is calling the free trade zone.
The Chinese government wants to compete with New York and London in terms of financial trading by making Shanghai a world-trading hub. In order make foreign representatives comfortable in their country, China created an 11-square mile area that would allow Internet users to access websites that Chinese citizens would otherwise be restricted from using. I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m in a foreign country, I can alleviate my homesickness be going on Farmville.
The move to relax restriction on the Internet is a strange one on the part of the Chinese government, considering how obscenely restrictive they are on the world of cyberspace. China is notorious for its swift and unrelenting censorship of anything and everything their government demes defamatory or potentially revolutionary. Case in point: a Chinese high school student was recently released from custody after being detained for questioning a police investigation. Sixteen-year-old Yang Yong earned his stint in prison after making a comment online about an investigation into a suicide was actually a cover-up of a murder. According to new legislation in China, you could face three years in prison if your rabble-rousing comment is viewed more than 5,000 times or re-tweeted more than 500 times.