China has enacted new regulations giving foreign journalists freedom to travel around the country, confirming hints that this Olympics-related reform would be a "lasting legacy" of the Games.
There was no easing of restrictions for domestic press, however.
Temporary rules, introduced on January 1 2007 to international fanfare, lifted requirements for journalists from abroad to obtain permission from the foreign ministry every time they intended to travel or to conduct an interview.
The change was introduced specifically to meet Beijing's commitment to allow free reporting of the Games and preparations for them when it was awarded the Olympics in 2001.
The government's refusal in the last month to confirm that they would be renewed once they expired at midnight on Friday, October 17, led to fears of a post-Olympics crackdown.
But foreign journalists received phone calls and text messages at 11.15 pm on Friday night summoning them to the foreign ministry immediately. At a midnight briefing, they were informed their current freedoms would be extended indefinitely.
"It is China's basic policy to reform and open up," the ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said. "We need to have a better understanding with the world. Only by being more transparent with the media and providing more information can we remain in good shape."
The original restrictions were often only honoured in the breach, with correspondents regularly roaming the country without seeking permission, but they gave police and local authorities a pretext to detain reporters at troublespots, harass local assistants and researchers, and send them back to Beijing or Shanghai.
They also provided a disincentive to would-be interviewees, who were also breaking the law.
Even after their lifting, some reporters have been detained and harassed on occasion. During the uprising in Tibetan areas of China in March and April, the rules were effectively suspended in the affected region, with all foreign journalists kept out.
The foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said Tibet itself would remain an exception to the regulations. Journalists will have to apply to the local ministry branch office for a permit to visit.
"We are not closing the door of Tibet," he insisted. The fact that such rules had to be put in place were a further reason to oppose "separatism", he said.
He gave no indication that there would be any loosening of the much tighter rules affecting Chinese journalists. He said he could not answer questions about internet censorship, which also caused controversy during the Games, as they were not part of the new regulations.
In one sign of tightening of those rules, internet cafes in the capital Beijing have been compelled to install cameras and take photographs to be logged with the authorities of all users when they check in.
Combined with a pass number, it means that all online activity in the city's "Net Bars" can be traced to individuals.
Proposals to introduce nationwide rules compelling "real name registration" which would have achieved the same effect were dropped after an outcry about privacy, in an unusual example of people power. But the new rule, which also involves registering identity card numbers, has the same effect.
A government-run website suggested the rule was intended to counter hacking, internet pornography, and "web rumours".
A spokesman said that 1,500 internet cafes in 14 of Beijing's 18 districts had been fitted with the cameras, and the remaining four districts would fall within the scheme by the middle of December.