Even though China has banned all virtual private network services in the country on the 31st of March, the regulation has not come into practical effect. Such services report that users in China are still able to connect to them without any difficulties.
Strengthening the Great Firewall
China currently blocks a line of services on the internet, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and it also restricts access to live-streaming services. Email services like Gmail and MS Outlook are also banned. However, for the country’s citizens, there are ways to still visit those site, through the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs. These services encrypt the traffic on a device and can prevent unwanted tracking and surveillance. The crackdown resulted in Apple pulling all apps from their app store that provide VPN in July of 2017. An order also came from Beijing to the ISPs China Mobile, Unicom, and Telecom to completely prevent the use of these services, as well as restrict and tighten security around internet usage. The country is still looking to plug remaining loopholes through a recent legislation that prohibits the use of VPNs starting this April.
However, several VPN services, including NordVPN, claim that people are still able to use their services. Furthermore, authorities have not made announcements yet on whether or not the ban is in effect, neither on how they intend to enforce the legislation.
Preventing the Flow of Information
In a report published by GlobalWebIndex in the autumn of 2017, preventing access to the wide web hinders employees in situations where getting the latest information quickly is vital to their fields. Scientific research, entrepreneurship, as well as merely being a student require the free flow of information for growth and development.
In their Survey, GlobalWebIndex states that 14% of China’s citizens use VPNs daily — which means that there are over 100 million users of such services.
Under the guise of promoting a “healthy development” for China’s internet, the fact of the matter remains that the country restricts the freedom and hinders the work of those wanting to study, to run businesses, and conduct research.