China wants ISPs to close customer VPN connections from February 2018

The Chinese government has told ISPs to block the use of VPN connections by private individuals from February 1, 2018. Bloomberg reports this citing anonymous sources.

These would be state-run ISPs, such as China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. The Chinese government wants to limit the use of VPN connections as much as possible, because that way the Chinese internet censorship, also known as The Great Firewall of China, can be circumvented. This censorship of the Chinese Communist Party is intended to keep control of all politically sensitive information.

China has been fighting against the use of VPN connections for some time. The Chinese government launched a campaign in January to ban VPN services that have not been authorized by authorities. As of January, all VPN services in China will require government approval to operate in the country. Companies have been warned to only allow the use of VPN connections for internal use.

Since July 1, a popular VPN service called GreenVPN has stopped offering the connections, reportedly due to pressure from Chinese regulators. During the two major meetings of the Communist Party’s National People’s Congress, which took place in March 2016, paid VPN connections were blocked for a week. In early 2015, it became clear that China had blocked three VPN networks from the providers Astrill, StrongVPN and Golden Frog.

In November last year, the Communist Party passed a controversial law, which came into effect in June. This ‘cyber security law’ further restricts freedom of expression on the internet and confronts service providers with new rules. Part of this law is the obligation for internet service providers to cooperate with authorities’ investigations into crime and national security. The new law also introduces a mandatory testing and certification system for computer equipment.

At the end of May, a law came into effect in China introducing strict rules for internet companies. For example, online service providers are not allowed to collect or resell personal data. China calls it an internet security law. China blocks access to many major Western websites, such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. According to Greatfire.org, China blocks 171 of the 1,000 most popular websites, based on a ranking from Alexa.