VPN providers are “blocked” in China by the “Great Firewall”. The country has a massive censorship and they block the VPNs to ensure that no user can avoid the censorship via the secure VPN tunnels.

Internet Censorship in China

How deep is the embargo on VPN

China’s Ministry of Industry and Technology (MIT) is what has been termed as a “crackdown” by the Hong Kong’s South China’s weekly post and that of Washington. The ban will cause adverse consequences on China’s VPN users and the VPN providers.
This leaves the citizens wondering whether this is due to the law embedded on business operating in China that requires them to obtain an Internet provider license to be displayed at the bottom of their website. Though this cannot be clearly ascertained for there is the existence of legally registered VPN providers in China, or could it be because of the mind-blowing sums they pay, for it enables them to sidestep the “Huge Firewall”.

The main question lies on whether the MIT has any dominion over the foreign VPNs or is this jurisdiction affecting inland service providers only? It has always been quite a hustle to obtain Chinese web domains and SSL certificates since the paperwork involved never gets less hectic. Hence, the Internet Service Providers are left on the edge as they keep trying to provide internet infrastructure in the inland unlike China Unicom and China mobile that offers prepaid service plans that enable bypassing the firewall.

The expected changes that will occur include:

1) Increasing blockage of VPN in China and other proxies.
2) Discrediting of VPN providers as in Turkey.
3) A ban on top-level domains that could harbor foreign domains.
4) Possible prosecution of VPN users.
5) Legal means of getting through the great firewall.

websites blocked in china

Action in accordance the new law against VPN

With the crackdown in place, people caught using VPN in the city of Chongqing are now liable to a fine of up to 15,000 Yuan (equivalent to US$2,200 or £1,700). This regulation was put into place in July 2016 but it was just recently released to the public. However, it is targeting everyone in the public that uses VPN particularly to bypass the great firewall to access sites that are blocked in china for commercial purposes.
The warning requires all users to terminate their internet connection but subject fines ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 Yuan to those making profits of more than 5,000 Yuan’s in blocked commercial sites. According to Amnesty International laws, the law is applicable and can be enforced to any individual or company regardless of their reasons to bypass the Firewall.

Chongqing China Map
Chongqing in China

Was the previous law put in place to block these sites absolute?

Amnesty international has suggested this due to the previous report that the Chinese Communist Party had ruled out that all websites in China should have a Chinese domain name and should be registered. This would also have affected overseas businesses operating in China as well.

Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International commented on AFP that if the changing policy succeeds in punishing the culprits the practice may extend to other parts of China. Meanwhile millions of people will still be using VPN even at the risk of being arrested. They will have to be exceptionally cautious when using VPN to access sites such as Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Beijing joins up in the fight to increase cyber security

A further dig into the matter shows that also Beijing has also been spear hurting the censorship before power reshuffle party congress. The nation’s “clean up” is ongoing and is expected to run until March 31, 2018 as stated by MIT recently. Chinese nationals can only anticipate the revolution as China’s cyber security chiefs pledge total loyalty to leadership under Xi Jinping through the congress party.
China’s internet connection service market has shown signs of disorderliness in its development which require urgent regulation and governance according to the ministry.

The crackdown is aimed to “strengthen the cyberspace security management”. Two companies; major VPN providers VyprVPN and ExpressVPN acknowledge their awareness on this.

Conclusion

As the cat and the rat game between the VPN providers and the government continues, Chinese citizens can only hope for the best even with fear of losing touch with outside world. As one Weibo user wrote:

so many people are laughing at how [US President Donald Trump] is building a wall on their border to Mexico while we are unaware that we have thickened our own wall

The more we monitor, the more lose.

Dadson T
Dadson is a freelance writer with an enduring interest in Information Security and Privacy concerns. For the last four years he has written on a range of topics in this area, including VPN reviews, Proxies as well as similar concerns as an IT specialist. Besides writing, he is a soccer fan and enjoys watching movies.

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