A late response, but half the replies here seem to be fairly innacurate.
They did stop charging, but only because they were forced to - due to issues about the partnership of NetEase with Blizzard and a foreign company not being allowed to operate online gaming domestically in China. Therefore they were not allowed to make money from the game until the joint venture issues had been investigated to determine who was in control of it etc.
It was not so much an issue of approval of the game at this point. But they kept the servers open calling it a 'Beta test' and allowed all those with accounts to continue playing for free, (the last thing they would have wanted was to lose their player base - especially as Aeon etc had just come out at that point) but they stopped any new players from creating accounts. I still had my account with leftover time from The9 still on it, and this time was untouched for the duration of this so-called 'Beta' period (which lasted for almost 2 months as I recall).
Once the joint-venture issue had been settled, they were then able to charge again and make money from it. However, there still remained the issue about approval of the content and the latest patches. The ongoing future of being able to play WoW was uncertain for a long time, however they were able to start charging - even if that happened before they opened up account creation.
When they were allowed to start charging again they made an announcement saying something to the effect of the free-time having been a 'thank you' for continued support from its player base (as well as having given out a free vanity pet) and made no allusion to it ever having been due to legal complications.
The 'Beta' tag was purely a cover to appease players and non-charging meant they broke no additional laws.
As for the pet, as far as I recall that was given out to all existing players as soon as NetEase first reopened their servers after extended downtime during the handover from The9. This was also partly due to legal complications between The9 and Blizzard. (The9 sued Blizzard on copyright issues, defamation and asset damage.) This pet would therefore probably have been during the 'beta' (free) period. I think only players who logged in during the first month of 'Beta' received this pet.
There was also a second pet give-away once all the legal issues had been resolved and the beta ended - in the form of the little gladiator murloc. All beta players and post-beta accounts received this one in the mail.
A couple of my toons didn't get the Jade tiger as I didn't play them during the beta period and probably lost it in the expired mail. However pretty much all my toons have the Murloc.
Having just checked my screenshots folder, I notice that I got my first Murloc on 31 July 2009, and the Jade Tiger on 23 October 2009, so I guess I got them the wrong way around. The murloc was therefore the one during the free period. Probably why most of my toons have it. The Tiger was later after I had semi given up on playing and waiting for WotLK which is why many of my toons don't have it.