China media: Free-trade zone

File photo: A container truck drives past the container area at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the newly announced Shanghai Free Trade Zone, south of Shanghai, 26 September 2013
Image caption China's media hope the free trade zone will turn Shanghai into a major global economic centre

Mainland Chinese media give a cautious welcome to Shanghai's newly unveiled free-trade zone (FTZ), while Hong Kong press play down its competitive threat.

Many newspapers and economists in China foresee immense challenges from the country's economic slowdown and rising costs, while giving a modest welcome to Shanghai's new free-trade zone that was officially opened on Sunday.

The papers hope that the new zone can successfully turn Shanghai into a major international finance centre and help the country's currency go global.

"Competition for foreign investment among developing countries is intensifying and the cost factor advantages of some countries are emerging gradually... While absolute advantages are declining, the government urgently needs to improve management efficiency quickly," writes economics professor Shi Jianxun in the People's Daily Overseas Edition.

The Beijing News alludes indirectly to recent "controversy" surrounding whether the zone would allow unfettered access to foreign websites such as Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times.

"The Shanghai FTZ is shouldering a mission to further expand market freedom boundaries. It should enjoy more 'freedom' some time in the future. There is no need for sectors of society to make an unwarranted fuss about this," the newspaper says.

Over in Hong Kong, some newspapers are disappointed at the mainland's dismissal of an alleged insider tip-off to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that bans on some websites would be lifted.

"The Chinese government is still keeping obsolete ideas of the 1930s right up until the 21st century. As long as this old way of thinking does not change, establishing more FTZs will be useless: they will not be enough to fully liberalise China's financial market and they can hardly threaten Hong Kong's position," says the Apple Daily.

Meanwhile, there has been another public outcry over the three-year jail term given to Gong Aiai, a former banker from northwest Shaanxi province nicknamed "House Sister", on Sunday for using fake identities to buy more than 40 properties.

Many internet users are dismayed that the court has sentenced Ms Gong only for using fake identities and did not investigate the source of the money used in buying properties.

Ms Gong says the money was earned legally in the coal industry or borrowed from friends.

"The court failed to provide a reasonable explanation. If they were legal properties, why were they concealed deliberately by making a lot of false identities? The public's in-depth questioning of the legitimacy of her property is based on common sense, and such doubts obviously cannot be eliminated by the verdict," says a Beijing Times commentator.

In international news, the official media are welcoming Saturday's UN Security Council resolution on dismantling Syria's chemical weapons by 2014.

"Saturday's UN Security Council resolution on Syria marks the greatest consensus the world has managed to build so far on seeking a political resolution to the crisis... It is noticeable that the West, led by the US, has backed down from their previous position, which insisted authorisation of military action should be included in Saturday's resolution if Syria fails to comply," says China Daily.

'Online rumours'

As China's crackdown on "online rumour-mongering" continues, tougher penalties for fabricating and spreading false terrorist threats, such as bomb threat hoaxes, come into effect on Monday, The Beijing News reports.

The harshest penalty is a minimum of five years in prison.

However, human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan tells the South China Morning Post that the "vague" interpretation of the crimes may provide a pretext for police to detain activists.

Meanwhile, official media are using the recent detention of a popular blogger for "online rumour-mongering" as a deterrent and warning to internet users.

On Sunday, the official China Central Television showed Dong Liangjie apologising for "fabricating" rumours about the quality of tap water in China and high levels of lead and copper in meat products in certain provinces.

Mr Dong posted sensationalist information to boost the profile of his company's water purifiers, the police allege.

CCTV also alleges that Mr Dong took advice from another detained social media celebrity, Chinese American businessman Charles Xue, on using "sensational headlines" when writing microblog messages or forwarding news.

Mr Xue, who is known as Xue Manzi on Sina Weibo, was detained in Beijing in August on suspicion of soliciting prostitutes. However, official media have used him to warn other "Big V's" (verified real-name bloggers with large online followings) against making irresponsible posts online.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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