Use Of VPNs Banned Completely For Millions Of People By Chinese Authorities
from the can-we-live-without-them-now? dept
Following the Congress vote to dismantle privacy protections for broadband subscribers, VPNs have suddenly become a very hot area, despite the complex issues surrounding them. We've reported on various instances of authorities around the world either banning VPNs, or flirting with idea of doing so. But there's no doubt that the main battleground over VPNs is in China, where the government has been clamping down on their use with ever-greater rigor.
For example, back in 2012, China started blocking VPNs, but in a rather ad hoc and piecemeal way. As Karl reported in January of this year, the authorities have now taken a much harsher line, requiring all VPN providers to obtain prior government approval in order to operate. Although that still allows people to use VPNs, it places them under strict control, and means they can be turned off by ordering suppliers to shut them down. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reveals that in the major city of Chongqing, the local authorities have taken these measures to their logical conclusion -- banning VPNs completely:
Security authorities in the Chinese city of Chongqing have expanded regulations that govern web access, in a bid to plug holes in the Great Firewall that separates mainlanders from the global internet.
They ban individuals and organisations from establishing or using channels to connect to international networks, and target businesses that help users to connect to such services.
According to the SCMP article, the rules came into force last year, but have only just been published on the local government's website. The regulations are valid until July 2021, and impose fines of up to $2000 on companies offering VPNs. Individuals caught using them are ordered to disconnect, and receive an official "warning," which is probably not something to be taken lightly. Although this seems to be a purely local initiative, the numbers affected are considerable. According to Wikipedia's entry on the metropolis:
Chongqing's population as of 2015 is just over 30 million with an urban population of 18.38 million. Of these, approximately 8.5 million people live in Chongqing city proper;
Those figures are equivalent to the population of a typical small country elsewhere. As such, the move to ban VPNs in Chongqing could act as a rather handy test run to find out what the knock-on effects are, particularly for important classes of internet users like businesses and researchers. Whether or not this latest move was ordered by the authorities in Beijing, they will doubtless be watching its roll-out with keen interest.