Haikou, capital of Hainan province. Public domain photo via Wikipedia.
Netizens in mainland China are expressing outrage over a proposal of the Hainan government that would enable access to overseas social media platforms that are otherwise censored in China.
The policy was met with firm criticism when it was released on June 21, on the provincial government website. Some described it as being “unfair” to other provinces, charging that it gives special privileges to the Hainan, an island province in the South China Sea that is popular among foreign tourists. Others called the policy a form of “information apartheid.”
A day later, the document was withdrawn from the site and all online criticisms were removed.
On the list of 25 measures included in the provincial government's “Three year action plan to boost international tourism in Hainan” is a plan to create special zones where visitors (foreign tourists and business people) would have open access to popular foreign social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The document stresses that the action plan was in alignment with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to transform the touristic island into a free-trade port by 2020.
China has strict control over its domestic internet and does not allow its citizens to access the majority of websites hosted outside the country.
The Hainan government’s plan to grant tourists access to popular social media sites seems like a step toward openness for outsiders. But many mainland Chinese netizens have responded with concern over what appears to be a double standard.
Tellingly, most of the critical comments about the action plan have been deleted from social media platforms. Below are some collected by Radio France Internationale:
This plan is the most shameless kind of reverse discrimination. Piece of trash!
Resist the discriminatory measure.
If visiting Twitter, Facebook is appropriate and harmless, why [are they] only granting foreigners access but not Chinese?
Back to the semi-feudal and semi-colonial stage.
去年跟朋友说过：海南会成为国中国。果然：“海南省计划为外国游客开辟网络绿洲，可正常使用外网”。包子不傻！这是为了加强对内陆控制：内陆文革化，海南香港化。毛时代为啥不收回香港？因为需要窗口，不然江青连色情电影都难搞。香港化的海南，是权贵和外国文明接触的冒险乐园 https://t.co/kXNOMLP02r— 一剑飘尘 (@yjpc1989) 23 juin 2018
Last year, I told my friend that Hainan would become a country within a country. Now it has come true.
“Hainan province has plans to construct an internet oasis for tourists and let them use the internet in a normal way.”
Baozi [“the Bun,” a nickname for President Xi] is no fool. The measure is intended to strengthen inland control — to create a Cultural Revolution on the continent while turning Hainan into Hong Kong.
Why do you think Mao [Zedong] did not take Hong Kong back? Because they needed a window [steam valve]? Otherwise Jiang Qing could not have produced so many movies. The Hong Kong-ization of Hainan will create an adventure land where the privileged can connect with western culture.