For many years, China’s “great firewall” has greatly restricted internet usage and access to many western websites. As the Chinese government becomes more and more restrictive and continues to censor media, many Chinese citizens have looked towards VPN for unrestricted internet browsing, with greater privacy. This dynamic has been much the same for two decades, but in recent months the Chinese government began issuing the first fines for contravening the ban. Recently, a citizen had used the Lantern VPN app, popular in China, to access websites out of China. He was prosecuted under a public security law introduced in 1997 that forbids access to the ‘foreign internet’ without permission. In China, only certain VPNs approved by the government is allowed to run. Essentially, this ensures that the internet is still being controlled by a central authority.
Furthermore, beginning in 2011, users reported disruptions of VPN Services. In late 2012, the Great Firewall was able to “learn, discover and block” the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems. In July 2017, The New York Times reported that the Chinese government ordered Apple to remove all VPN apps from the Chinese iOS App Store. Recently, reports have stated that international hotels have found gaps in the firewall and as a result the regulators have tightened their rules and asked hotel lobbies to stop offering their clients VPNs to access blocked content.This comes on top of reports that new regulations will come into force that will require all VPN services to be authorized and sanctioned by the government
What implications does this hold and what does this mean for VPNs in China? For many businesses, this could have massive implications about how their companies are going to be run. For certain multinational companies, including companies with valuable intellectual property to protect, have even had their internet access cut-off entirely for failing to use an approved VPN provider. For the individual, it means a great risk associated with free internet browsing and a greater restriction on freedom.