China has begun a nationwide campaign to clamp down on the unauthorised use of VPNs to circumvent the ‘Great Firewall’. In theory, this means that almost all VPN use in the country is illegal; seeing that permission to use one is difficult to obtain.
This “clean-up” is set to run for the next 14 months, and concludes at the end of March 2018. It’s unclear why China has suddenly made a move against VPNs, although the notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that it was to “strengthen cyberspace information security management”.
A significant number of Chinese nationals use VPNs to connect to the outside world. This is necessary as China blocks sites like Google, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and major western news site. That being said, the legality of VPNs in China has always been a grey area, as they were alternately ignored and blocked.
Chinese internet users are reportedly concerned that they will lose touch with the rest of the world as a result of this crackdown. The country carefully controls what its citizens can see, and routinely employs people to direct the conversation over Weibo – the only government approved social media site.
The Chinese government is reportedly trying to create a conducive internet environment for the upcoming party congress, which would explain the move to block any potential dissent. This also included two websites run by liberal think tanks being shut down.
[Source: South China Morning Post]