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Censorship in China

Chinese software developer gets three days’ detention for helping internet users to bypass Great Firewall

Subscribers paid US$1.50 a month for the service, which provided access to virtual private networks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 10:47pm

A Chinese software developer was detained last month for selling computer services that allow internet users to bypass China’s Great Firewall, which blocks access to thousands of websites and social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, local media reported.

The man, who was not named but said to be from the coastal province of Jiangsu, near Shanghai, was arrested in late August and held for three days for selling virtual private networks, Global Times reported on Monday, citing Xinhua.

VPNs create encrypted links between computers and allow web users to visit blocked sites by hiding the address from government filters.

Man jailed for selling VPNs to evade China’s ‘Great Firewall’

Subscribers paid 10 yuan (US$1.50) a month for the service, the report said, adding that the authorities seized the developer’s earnings, which totalled 1,080 yuan.

Some internet businessmen have faced far harsher punishments: Earlier this year, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who sold VPN services in Dongguan, southern China’s Guangdong province, was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Beijing launched a campaign early this year to stamp out the use of unlicensed VPNs, part of a broader crackdown on the control of information ahead of next month’s party congress in the capital. China restricts how licensed VPNs are used, but has yet to disclose what those restrictions entail.

VPNs are part of daily life for many Chinese. A survey by GlobalWebIndex said 14 per cent of Chinese internet users employ a VPN every day, meaning China might have as many as 100 million regular users.

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About 8.8 per cent of people said they used VPNs to look at “restricted sites”, the survey said.

China has introduced a range of internet restrictions over the past year, including requiring every business with a website to obtain an Internet Content Provider licence.

Wang Sixin, deputy dean of the School of Literature and Law at Communication University of China, was quoted by Global Times as saying that the new regulations were aimed at creating a rule of law on the internet.

Web users “will be prone to harmful – even terrorist – information on the internet if it isn’t appropriately regulated,” he said.