Most people are well aware that the Chinese government does not like freedom of speech all that much. The government has no intention of providing access to most online sources of information either. The Great Firewall of China has been subject to plenty of scrutiny over the years. One way to bypass this problem is using a VPN. However, one person selling VPNs to evade the country’s blockade recently got jailed for his actions.
Chinese Officials Don’t Like VPN Vendors
The Chinese government aims to do everything it can to prevent people from accessing potentially harmful information. That should not surprise anyone, considering that messing with the Great Firewall of China can get individuals in a lot of trouble. The blockade was put in place to limit or restrict access to specific online platforms, including social media sites and Wikipedia. There are, however, ways to bypass this problem, such as using a VPN connection.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese officials have been cracking down on vendors of VPN services. One person selling such services to the masses has been sentenced to nine months in jail, indicating the government will not be giving up its quest to enforce censorship. Den Jiewei is a 26-year-old individual who has been convicted of providing software and tools for invading and illegally controlling the computer information system. It is a serious conviction, although one which was to be expected.
Deng had been selling two VPNs through his website for over a year before he was detained by government officials. Together with a partner, both men had earned around US$2,100 in profit from allowing users to visit foreign websites inaccessible from a mainland IP address. Although the sentencing was handed down in March of this year, the court documents regarding this decision were only made public last Sunday.
Many people are not too pleased with this decision. There is a lot of public outcry regarding Deng’s sentencing and the treatment of VPN users in general. Although no users of the service have been arrested, it is certainly possible that situation might change in the near future. Selling a VPN is illegal under Chinese law, but it is the first time such a harsh sentence was handed down. This sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.
If this sentence applies to people selling VPN access, it could also apply to those who use such services to access information. After all, those users would also be guilty of invading and illegally controlling the computer information system. Local authorities across China have already begun cracking down on some users lately. Whether or not any regulatory action will be undertaken remains to be determined.
There is a 14-month campaign underway in China to crack down on unauthorized VPN servers. This campaign initially began in January of this year and will end in March of 2018. This massive sentencing goes to show that the government is achieving its goal in one way or another. Rest assured this initiative will meet a lot of resistance from advocates of free speech and unrestricted internet access. Approved VPN networks used by multinationals are not affected.