The Merkle

Chinese VPN Vendor Sentenced to Five and a Half Years in Prison

Most people are well aware of how China isn’t exactly known for freedom of speech. Especially in the online world, accessing the information you need there is a big challenge. Until recently, it was possible to bypass most limitations through a VPN connection. However, the government has begun arresting and sentencing VPN service providers. One Chinese entrepreneur received a jail sentence of five and a half years for providing such a service.

Chinese VPN Provider Faces Massive Jail Sentence

With the Chinese government cracking down on VPN providers, it is only a matter of time until more people get arrested and receive jail time. Although the use of a VPN is normal in the rest of the world, it is illegal in China as of this year. Anyone using such services or reselling VPN access to third parties can be arrested and thrown in jail. It is a very sad development in the world of free speech, but rest assured we will only see more of these invasive measures in the future. One Chinese entrepreneur was recently sentenced for selling VPN access to others.

More specifically, Wu Xiangyang was handed a jail sentence of five and a half years. That seems awfully steep for simply reselling VPN services, but the Chinese government isn’t taking this matter lightly. In fact, it will continue to crack down on virtual private networks, its users, and the service providers. In an ideal world, the Chinese government would like to see VPNs destroyed in China, as it doesn’t want consumers or corporations to evade the Great Firewall any longer. It’s a disturbing development, but one most people saw coming from miles away.

Wu was also fined 500,000 yuan for this violation. Although a fine of nearly US$76,000 is somewhat negligible compared to the jail sentence, it only confirms how the government will go about its business moving forward. It has to be said that Wu ran his VPN service without an official license and has been a major vendor since 2013. His arrest in Q3 of 2017 made some media headlines, and he may very well be made an example of.

With the Communist Party trying to keep Chinese internet users from seeing sensitive content that might change their worldviews, a very problematic situation is created. In a normal scenario, anyone would be able to access the information they seek and be allowed to make up their own mind. China has always been averse to this idea, and it will continue to introduce measures to ensure people can’t view “material deemed subversive or obscene”.

As one would expect, the ban on VPNs has not been well-received in China. Millions of individuals and corporations can no longer operate at full capacity. It even disrupts Chinese academics and students, which is never a positive side effect. At the same time, this VPN crackdown is only one part of the political games taking place in China. Things will only get worse from here on out unless solutions are created which can’t be blocked by the government.

Do keep in mind Chinese officials will introduce government-approved VPNs in the future. These tools will not necessarily allow people to access their desired content, and they will log all information passing through their connections. This is the second time someone has been sentenced for selling VPN access in China, but it certainly won’t be the last.