China VPN Ban
  • A Chinese man is given a 1000 yuan fine for using a VPN, being the first citizen to get punished.
  • The People’s Republic of China has blocked access to 135 out of the 1000 top websites on the internet.
  • The authorities claim that it’s possible to access anything, but only do so through their “licensed and approved” traffic channels.

A resident of Guangdong named Zhu was fined with 1000 yuan ($164) for using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to reach websites that the Chinese authorities have blocked access to. The fine is not by any means large, so it is practically just a disciplinary warning to the person, and an example for the Chinese internet users who should think twice before using VPNs to override the barriers imposed by the Provisional Regulations of China’s Administration of International Networking of Computer Information.

According to Greatfire.org, a website that monitors and challenges internet censorship in China, the government of China has blocked access to 13.5% of the world’s 100 most popular websites. This percentage includes sites such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Other blocked portals concern websites that promote content deemed as “inappropriate” by the Chinese government, like pornographic content and political speech that is against the nationally-promoted political ideology. This cleaning up of the country’s internet ecosystem has been going on for over a year now, but this particular case was the first ever to see a single person getting targeted with punishment for using VPN.

Not everyone in the past was treated with a disciplinary warning though, as those who offer VPN services to many users in China are considered higher-level violators. Back in 2017, Wu Xiangyang who sold VPN services online was fined with a 500 times larger penalty, the equivalent of $72800. Last year, and following the wrath of the Chinese authorities against unregulated VPNs, these services almost wholly disappeared.

With all of this going on against the desire of millions of Chinese citizens to access the internet freely, the pressure on the government to revise the relevant regulation that has remained unchanged since 1997, but the latter seem not to accept that there’s a real reason for that. As a spokesperson of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told media, whoever wants to use a VPN to get around the Great Firewall, can do so by renting special lines from operators who have been licensed by the government to provide these services legally. This covers the needs of international businesses, foreign companies, and the people who work for them.

In spite of the strict take of the People’s Republic of China on this matter, people in China continue to use proxy servers, VPNs, the Tor network, and more, while protests continue to rise in popularity and intensity.

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