No, China is Not Banning Personal VPNs

The Chinese government has denied earlier reports that it is seeking to shut down even personal VPNs in China.

Citing sources “familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg reported that the government has given instructions to telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to virtual private networks by Feb. 1, 2018.

According to the report, local telecommunications firms such as China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom have reportedly been ordered to ban VPNs.

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The move would effectively cut everyone’s access to the global internet, including both local and foreign individuals who have managed to access the unfiltered world wide web in the past. VPN users, mostly foreigners living in China, have so far been able to circumvent censorship restrictions of the Great Firewall by routing their web traffic abroad.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, however, has called the Bloomberg article a false story, reports Shanghaiist. In a statement provided to The Paper, the agency clarified that it has merely issued a directive in January that cracked down on companies using unauthorized VPNs to conduct business.

Under its new provisions, all cable and VPN services are now required to obtain prior government approval before being used for business activities that go across China’s borders. The agency has even warned firms to ensure that VPNs are used internally.

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China’s restriction on its population’s access to the internet is notoriously one of the strictest in the world. Government regulators have been tasked to constantly monitor the people’s access to the web.

The Great Firewall has been able to keep local Internet users from accessing foreign social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and even news and information sites while VPNs have been widely used by businesses and individuals to access these banned sites.

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