October 15, 2019
The People’s Court of Shanghai Baoshan District has sentenced a man from Shanghai to three years of prison for selling illegal VPNs from 2016 to 2017. The software engineer will also have to pay a hefty fine of 10,000 yuan ($1,400) and serve three years of probation. He sold the VPNs to hundreds of customers to help them bypass China’s “Great Firewall” that aggressively censors content on the internet.
The man was working for a securities management company, and the arrest was made in October 2017. His full name has not been revealed to the media with the exception of his surname (Dai). According to reports, this is the first time someone has received criminal penalties for offering VPN services. However, there have been other instances of people ending up in prison for similar offenses.
A citizen of Guangdong province was received a five-month jail sentence for making 14,000 yuan selling illegal virtual private network services online. Sentences have gone up to five and a half years in length and selling VPNs in China is turning out to be a risky business and is creating panic amongst citizens.
Even though VPNs are prevalent in the country, such services have never received approval from any of the internet regulators. The arrests against people selling such services have led to widespread fear, especially amongst foreigners who stay in the country. A report was released earlier this year that the Chinese government is planning to ban VPNs in February 2018. However, the government did not issue any bans until March 31st, informing everyone that all unlicensed virtual private networks are no longer allowed and their usage can be incriminating.