China Orders the Removal of VPNs from App Stores

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The Golden Shield Project, commonly known as “The Great Firewall of China” is an internet surveillance and censorship project designed to restrict the flow of unfavourable information by the Chinese government. For many years the Great Firewall has notoriously blocked hundreds of websites and web applications, including popular media platforms and social media networks, such as: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Pintrest together with many more Western-made websites and applications.

As a result, Chinese netizens found alternative ways to go around the Great Firewall in order to unblock restricted web content in China, such as using VPNs. A VPN, short for “Virtual Private Network”, is a technology that routes data traffic through an encrypted tunnel within the internet to allow users to bypass geo-restrictions and unblock any restricted web content in complete anonymity. This means that internet users in China that use VPNs can access blocked websites without being tracked by the GFW’s filtration system.

In a few days, Chinese VPN users will say goodbye to their VPN services. The Chinese government has been making shocking decisions lately to tighten its grip and expand its sovereignty on the internet to shape what can be viewed on the web. A new decision has been made regarding the use of VPNs in China starting from the 1st of July where Apple and Android stores will prohibit their users in China from installing VPN applications to bypass the Great Firewall. VPN service providers are already banned in China except for those that are registered with the Chinese government to prevent netizens from accessing restricted content in China.

Despite this ban, several VPN services have gone over the GFW and provided their users in China with full access to restricted content on the internet. Accordingly, the communist state has decided to delist unauthorized VPN services from being used in China. One of the most popularly used VPNs in China, Green VPN, has recently announced in an online letter that it will no longer operate in China starting from July 1st:

“We have received notice from the higher authorities. We regret to inform you that Green will cease our service on July 1st, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.” […] “Your praise and affirmation have encouraged us to last as long as we have. We will always be grateful for this. In the future, the Green team will transform the business. We look forward to meeting you again.”

Green VPN is not the only VPN service provider that is obligated to shut down its business in China, other VPNs, including: VPN Master Pro, Netfits, SkyX, Ponhon and Snap VPN have been removed from both Android and Apple stores. You can read more about it here.

The ban of VPNs in China has been expected since the beginning of this year when the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China stated that it would block any services that are illegal, including illegal VPN providers to implement its cross-border operations.

It is believed that this ban is closely related to the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s independence from the British rule which is celebrated on the 1st of July. President Xi Jinping is expected to pay a visit to Hong Kong for the big celebration and the city will be heavily secured. Hu Jia, a human rights activist tweeted:

“#July 1 the 20th anniversary of the doomsday of Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedom and the CCP #19 Congress around end of the year would be the heyday of the Great Fire Wall. #Xi Jinping is responsible for cybersecurity and he is more heavy-handed and effective in controlling the net. #Xitler.”

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