loosening restrictions on business and tourism in the southernmost island province, however, they may now have gone too far.ith plans to turn Hainan into “China’s Hawaii” and the largest free-trade zone in the country, officials have been busy this year
On June 21st, the Hainan provincial government released a three-year plan aimed at increasing the number of foreign visitors to their tropical land. In order to raise the number of annual inbound international tourists to 2 million a year by 2020, the document announced some very special measures.
According to the plan, special zones will be set up in the cities of Haikou and Sanya where foreign tourists will be able to access websites that are blocked elsewhere in China, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The document fails to explain where or how these zones will be placed, or how their borders will be enforced.
News about these special, Great Firewall-hopping zones for foreigners hit Chinese social media today with some serious force, igniting debate and outrage before that discussion was subsequently squashed. One Weibo thread claims to have more than 5,000 comments, but at the moment the only one that can be seen is a sticker of the surprised face of Doraemon.
These zones can’t help but bring to mind the foreign enclaves that existed in China a century ago, where foreign citizens enjoyed special rights including being exempt from the jurisdiction of local Chinese law.
While news stories about the plan remain up at this time, the document itself has apparently been removed from the Hainan government website. It’s not clear if provincial government officials consulted with Beijing before announcing this surprising move.
The document also says that the Hainan government plans to use blocked social networking sites, like Facebook, YouTube, and Whatsapp, to promote the province as a prime international tourism destination. Meanwhile, it also plans to employ 50,000 foreign workers with English language skills who can apply for positions such as tourist guides and lifeguards.