For many Chinese internet users, it’s time to get a new VPN
Beijing’s campaign targeting popular virtual private network services has left many people worried about how to conquer the Great Firewall
The crackdown on virtual private network services on the mainland has left many internet users frustrated, as they try to find ways to get around the notorious Great Firewall.
VPNs – which route internet traffic to servers in other locations – are a popular tool on the mainland because Beijing restricts access to a wide range of websites it deems undesirable, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
But some service providers have been shut down since the authorities launched a 14-month crackdown on unauthorised internet connections, including VPNs, about six months ago.
GreenVPN is the latest popular provider to stop operating on the mainland because it received “a notice from regulatory departments” to do so, the company said in an announcement that it was pulling the plug from July 1.
Haibei VPN also terminated its service, citing the same reason.
Many mainlanders are now scrambling to find other ways to bypass strict internet controls. Coco, a curator in Shanghai who used GreenVPN for over two years, said she struggled to do her job without the service. “I need to look at artists’ works on websites that are banned in China pretty much every day,” she said. “But without a VPN I just can’t do it.”
Coco said she was trying to find another VPN that was stable and fast. “I don’t know what they’re trying to block – I’m not using the VPN to look at political content,” she said. “I’m really worried about how I’m going to be able to do my job if there are no VPN services available.”
In Beijing, environmental researcher Laura Li, not her real name, was also concerned about the impact the crackdown would have on her job. Li said she often used Google Docs to work collaboratively with colleagues. Google is also banned on the mainland.
“I’m thinking about signing up for another VPN, but what if that one is shut down too?” she asked.
For others, such as English teacher Tang Xiaojia in Hunan province, no VPN means no entertainment. “It’s really annoying. I can’t watch videos on YouTube,” said Tang, who had paid GreenVPN for one year of service in May.
A spokesman for VPNDada, which helps mainland internet users find reliable VPNs, said although it was getting harder for people to bypass the Great Firewall, the services could not be completely wiped out. “The government can’t control VPN companies based outside China and it can’t control people setting up and using their own VPN servers,” he said. The website advised frequent VPN users to find overseas service providers rather than those based on the mainland.
On social media, people were angry about the closures, with some saying it was a throwback to isolationist policies.