In China, using a VPN to circumvent the firewalls and internet restrictions is illegal. In January of this year, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology declared that it would be investigating and pursuing disorderly services like VPNs that allow users free reign over the internet. It was then that the government first started to really crack down on VPNs by declaring that in the coming years, there would be major changes to internet in order to prevent tools like VPNs from being usable in China.
The government declared that operating a VPN without a license would be illegal. This basically means that any VPN in China operating with a licensed is essentially compromised. To operate officially a VPN has to give over all of the logs and information of its user base–rendering it pointless to use in the first place. VPNs–the good ones, after all, are built for anonymity not data collection and user surveillance.
Only just recently in July, many reports were saying that the Chinese government was taking things a step forward by threatening ISPs to block VPNs altogether. However, at this time, local authorities denied the reports. At the end of July, however, suspicions were confirmed as Apple was forced to remove VPN apps from the Chinese app store.
Apple informed developers in their statement: “We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”
Deng Mouwei Sentenced to Prison for Selling VPN
26 year old Chinese man, Deng Mouwei, was running a small website in which he sold online VPN software, and now in late 2017, he has been sentenced to prison. Mouwei was arrested in October of 2016 for setting up a website to sell two VPNs, “on suspicion of providing tools for illegal control of a computer information system.”, as reported by Whatsonweibo.
Some reasons that could explain the arrest would have to do with the way Mouwei marketed the service, with keywords like “VPN over the wall” and “shadow shuttle cloud”. However, while VPN use in China has been accelerating despite blockades, Mouwei’s wasn’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. The website was live for little over a year, and it only made $2133. It just shows that the government will even come after the small guys, as long as they are in China.
The Guandong Province’s First People’s Court ruled earlier this year, but the verdict only just now became public. “The court held that the defendant Deng Mouwei disregarded state law, by providing tools specifically for the invasion and illegal control of computer information systems procedures. The circumstances are serious and the behavior violated the ‘Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 285.”
“The facts of the crime are clear, the evidence is true and sufficient. In accordance with the provisions of Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the defendant shall be sentenced according to law.”While it’s not entirely clear how long Mouwei will be in prison, Article 172 usually sentences “distributors” like Mouwei to three years of imprisonment. Right now, Mouwei has a 9 month prison sentence for giving people access to tools that can bypass the domestic internet in China.
Best VPN for China?
If you’re in China, or wanting to visit, then you’ll need a good VPN. Mouwei, while he seemed to have decent intentions, most likely only had a small very niche product that didn’t work well–hence the low sales, and how he got caught with the Chines police. You need a VPN based out of China that can stay outside its jurisdiction.