HONG KONG – Facebook and Twitter may soon be allowed to operate in China, but only within a soon to be launched free trade zone in Shanghai.

The South China Morning Post quoted anonymous sources close to China’s central government saying that the decision was approved by China’s Premier Li Keqiang.

Most western social media services are currently not permitted in China because the central government is concerned about the impact they may have on social stability. Facebook and Twitter have been banned in China since 2009.

The South China Morning Post report also said that The New York Times may also be unbanned within the zone. It has been excluded from China since last year when it reported allegations about the huge fortune controlled by the family of Wen Jiabao.

China has a the world’s largest internet population. The country’s leading online media firms have developed highly successful social media platforms, portals, micro-blogging services and search engines.

The government announced the establishment of the free trade zone in western Shanghai in order to attract more foreign inward investment and to help the Renminbi become a more widely used currency in international trade. The exact date for the launch of the zone has not yet been fixed.