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Chinese City Announces Stiff Punishment for VPN Users

Representative image.

Representative image.

VPNs are used widely by diplomatic and foreign media in China to access world wide Internet.

A Chinese city has announced stiff fines and punishments for those who access Internet using virtual private networks (VPNs) outside the nation’s infamous Great Firewall, which censors and criminalises sensitive material online. Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality announced a new regulation yesterday to punish unauthorised Internet connections outside China’s Great Firewall (GF) using VPNs by individuals in the region.

The regulation, which was issued to “strengthen China’s rule of law and cyberspace security,” in July last year, was made public yesterday, state-run Global Times reported today.If an individual accesses international network privately or via “illegal channels,” or offers related services without authorisation, they could be fined up to 15,000 yuan (USD 2,178), the rule stipulated by Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau said. Those who violate the regulation to make profits would be fined and their gains confiscated accordingly, it said.

Earlier reports said a similar move is being planned all over China. The regulation is regarded significant as VPNs are required in China to access the world wide web. The GF is built over the years by China to regulate the Internet content and restrict access to all the banned contents including access to global social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Google.

While VPNs are used widely by diplomatic and foreign media in China to access world wide Internet, the

special applications designed to beat the GF being marketed by several Internet firms abroad are becoming popular among Chinese too.

There are 700 million Internet users in China, more than half of its population, and Internet news circulated by social media platforms like Weibo has become more popular than the state-controlled mainstream media making the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to beef up controls on the Internet to ensure that its monopoly over power is not challenged.

Also, China pitches for “cyber sovereignty” moving away from global Internet. “Safeguarding of China’s sovereignty, security and development interests in cyberspace has become an important strategic goal,” China’s first white paper on cyber security released here recently said.

Chongqing city, which has now banned the VPNs, has its own political significance as it was previously administered by Bo Xilai, one of Chinese Communist Party’s controversial leaders, who is currently serving life sentence for various charges including corruption. Before his fall from grace in 2013, Bo was regarded as rival to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

first published:March 29, 2017, 16:12 IST