China orders telecoms providers to cut-off access to VPN users

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/kupicoo)

Most people have some awareness of China's oppressive firewall, but at least in the past it was simple to circumvent using a VPN. However, a number of residents in Xinjiang – a province in the northwest of China – faced having their internet access cut-off for using a VPN service to bypass the Great Firewall.

Xinjiang is no stranger to internet crackdowns, and was targeted during riots in 2009

For those who haven't visited China, it's hard to imagine just how frustrating it can be to not just be able to visit your usual sites for legitimate purposes. If you're a Chinese resident, then you would learn alternatives which the government controls, but if you want to access unregulated content then you have little choice but to use a VPN. 

“Due to police notice, we will shut down your cellphone number within the next two hours in accordance with the law,” read a text message received by one of the people, who lives in the regional capital of Urumqi. “If you have any questions, please consult the cyberpolice affiliated with the police station in your vicinity as soon as possible.” 

In order to have their account reactivated, the user has to get in touch with the police. The person who received the above text said that when she called the police she was told suspensions were aimed at people who; had not linked their identification to their account, used a VPN to evade China’s system of internet filters, or downloaded foreign messaging software like WhatsApp or Telegram.

We will shut down your cellphone number within the next two hours in accordance with the law

Xinjiang is no stranger to internet crackdowns, and was targeted during riots in 2009 which led to internet access in the region being cut-off for almost six months. As many would know, this has serious repercussions on individuals and businesses that rely on the internet to keep in touch with loved ones or to conduct their business. 

It's not clear how many have been affected in this latest crackdown, but it's reported that queues of over 20 people awaiting reconnection in each police station have been witnessed. The other big question which remains is whether the government will extend the clampdown to other parts of China in the near future. 

China's telecoms regulator announced earlier this year that all new SIM cards sold from September 1st must verify and register users' IDs to prevent the use of unverified accounts which are difficult – or impossible – to find out who is using the service. China Mobile, the top operator, said in January it still had nearly 130 million accounts, or 16 percent of its total accounts, unverified. 

What do you think about China's decision to cut-off access to VPN users? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Kapertin
7 Dec 2015, 6:34 a.m.

Yeah, I heard about it. Fortunately, I am not living in Xiijiang. I am living in Shanghai, China. I can still use FlyVPN from here to unlock GFW.

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jjcoolaus
23 Dec 2015, 3:55 a.m.

A stealth vpn can be used so that it is undetectable by the great firewall. Some VPN companies have become extremely good at this (proxy.sh, torguard, astrill) but I would contact the VPN provider first before attempting to connect, especially if the end result is disconnection for good.

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