A REPORT CLAIMS that the Chinese government might not order a complete block on virtual private networks (VPNs) after all.
Earlier this week, a report claims that China would completely ban VPNs from early next year, in the latest stage of its campaign to prevent web users from circumventing the 'great firewall of China'.
The Guardian reported that the Chinese government has ordered the country's big-three telecoms and internet service providers, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, to block VPNs by February next year.
This is because, the report claims, millions of Chinese citizens routinely use VPNs circumvent the blocks on 'banned' websites. These blocks restrict access to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other non-Chinese social media websites, as well as any news or opinion that might be critical of the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party.
"This is a significantly escalated form of internet control and shows there is unprecedented urgency and desperation at the top of the government," Xiao Qiang, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Guardian.
However, a new report courtesy of The Paper claims that China isn't planning a blanket ban. In a statement, China's Ministry of Industry and Information said that VPNs with "permissions", such as domestic and international companies, won't be affected.
The statement goes onto say that "the majority of users" will be able to continue using VPNs, saying only "unapproved" software will be banned.
Reports on a VPN ban in the country comes after the Chinese government ordered a 14-month crackdown on the internet, intended to support the country's "internet sovereignty", but which coincides with the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a Party conference that only happens once every five years and which sees power reshuffled among the politicians and functionaries who govern China.
These meetings are typically accompanied by a crackdown on so-called dissidents and a ratcheting up of security.
Underscoring how serious the Chinese government has been about controlling online communications, a widely used indigenous VPN service was abruptly shut down last month after receiving an order from one of China's communications regulators. µ
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