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China may punch a hole in the 'Great Firewall' for select tourists

Hainan province is shaping up to be a global tourist hotspot.

The Chinese government's prohibition of popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has spanned several years. China has previously flirted with relaxing its strict internet rules, but it stood firm and such promises never materialized. Now, its island province Hainan may take the lead -- all in the name of tourism.

Social media censorship affects Hainan just like the mainland, but according to Reuters, the tourist hotspot may partially unblock the Great Firewall in a move to entice foreign visitors. In April, China revealed that it intends to transform Hainan into a free-trade zone that would act as the foundation for an international tourism hub. It's part of a broader plan to boost tourism levels to 2 million annual visitors by 2020, which would allow visitors to use foreign credit cards at major attractions, encourage overseas companies to build regional headquarters, and, if the recent post regarding online restrictions from Hainan's provincial government is credible, permit access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

The problem is, Shanghai has been an established free-trade zone since since 2013, and internet and social media censorship still hasn't abated -- which doesn't set a very good precedent for Hainan. The proposed plan did not outline whether Chinese social media users would receive the same sanctions, leading to uproar and cries of "reverse racism". To make matters worse, the original pledge was apparently taken down from the government website within 24 hours, leaving a social networking expansion in doubt.