Chinese Government Cracks Down on VPN Usage
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Update 1/25/17: There appears to be a difference of opinion when it comes to how China plans to regulate VPNs going forward. While several publications are reporting an upcoming “crackdown,” it seems more likely that the government will be going after VPN services directly, rather than individual VPN users.
China is a great place to get away — in that you’ll end up scoring a government-sponsored break from Facebook and Twitter. We’ve seen plenty of deals to China, as well as shown how to fly there cheaply in style. While accessing the full internet is never as seamless in China as it might be in North America or Europe, it’s still always been relatively easy to check Twitter and Facebook after a few minutes of effort setting up a VPN. Additionally, some chain hotels offer unrestricted internet access, and customers roaming with a US-issued SIM card should be able to access the same services they can at home.
As for access via a VPN, however, what has always been a grey area is now strictly forbidden. For now, if you want to access the internet with a VPN you’ll be required to get permission from the Chinese government — by March 2018 use of a VPN will be considered a crime. If you have a trip to China planned for the near future you’ll probably be okay, but any prospective visitors should keep this in mind when planning future trips.
The Chinese government hasn’t said how it plans to enforce this law, and there doesn’t seem to be a realistic way for them to do so effectively. In recent years governments around the world have tried to suppress citizens from accessing a variety of sites, and have largely been unsuccessful. If you really need to check Facebook while you’re in China, you can probably do it with little risk, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.