Friday, December 14, 2012

The illegal VPN's - China Weekly Hangout

Sulov vpn
Sulov vpn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Global Times, a state-run English language paper, confirmed on Friday morning what some already had feared for a few days: using VPN's in China will be illegal and the country's internet filter systems seem to have started to block some of the major players: Witopia, Astrill and StrongVPN.
If successful - and we would add the 'if' is large for many reasons - China's way of censoring the internet has entered a new phase. While most Chinese internet users are happy to be limited to China's intranet, international businesses, diplomats, scientist, journalists and many other rely on the uncensored internet via VPN's.
We were planning to scale down the number of China Weekly Hangouts until after the different holidays, this seems to be a reason to try and get the hangout still in place on Thursday 20 December, 10pm Beijing Time, 3pm CET and 9pm EST. Again, we might not be able to deliver on Thursday, because of travel and other pending arrangements, but we will do out best.
We will try to look at both the technical and political side of a possible ban on VPN's.
You can register here, to join the discussion. We are looking for a few panelists who can tell from the ground in China what is happening to their VPN; and we want to make an assessment of what this might really mean. Feel free to invite yourself, as we have limited time for lining up people ourselves.

A few initial thoughts on the possible ban of VPN's in China.
1. A few people mentioned an update of the censor systems, causing them problems. There has always been a cat-and-mouse game between the larger VPN firms and the murky departments working on the censorship  systems. China's censors have been a huge nuisance, but have never been able to really block access to the internet outside China.
2. There is no sign of a new law focusing on VPN's; there was always a formal requirement to register VPN firm with the authorities, but since most VPN firm have no presence in China, that seems an empty rule.
3. There is an effort by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), here explained by Tech in Asia,, to register all apps in China (and possibly other software used on your computer). While developers are getting nervous, we must remind everybody that it is common practice in China for this ministry to issue regulations that have no relations to reality. Still, not something that should be ignored.
4. Many things are illegal in China: corruption, prostitution, unlicensed satellite dishes, to mention a few. That does not mean they do not exist anymore.
If we manage to get this running, the hangout can be viewed here.

The China Weekly Hangout on 15 November look at the global ambitions of China's internet companies, with Steve Millward of Tech in Asia.

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