In an attempt to toughen the online restrictions, the Chinese government has ordered the popular VPN service, GreenVPN, to shut down all its operations in China. GreenVPN was considered, by many internet users in China “the best VPN”. It was the best alternative to unblocking the countless blocked websites by the Great Firewall of China. The bypassing occurred through allowing its users to connect to servers outside of China, hence bypassing the restriction. Services that are used for this specific purpose are being placed under extreme heat in China these days starting with VPNs like GreenVPN. Before the shutdown, GreenVPN posted an apologetic statement on their website reading the following:
“Under the higher authorities’ notice, we must regret to inform you that GreenVPN will stop its service on July 1, 2017. We apologize for any inconvenience caused… It’s your each and every thumb-up that encouraged us to persist until today; we are always grateful. After this, the Green team will transform and look forward to meeting you again.”
The statement was displayed in English and in Mandarin. The Mandarin version is shown below:
In addition to the statement, GreenVPN also announced refund procedures for all its current users. Even though the GreenVPN icon is still showing in the Apple App Store, yet multiple users have reported trouble in downloading it and/or activating it on their devices. We are unsure if this is due to a technical glitch or if it’s due to the restrictions. Also, ever since the 1st of July, and the GreenVPN website has been appearing as under maintenance. These are all strong signs of the shutdown.
The Ministry of Industry and Information (MIIT) has officially listed restricting VPNs as one of its top priorities in its move to further control the internet contents accessible in China. The regulatory department targeted GreenVPN in addition to several other popular VPN providers in China.
This move started back in January of this year and, according to the government, all restrictions are planned to be completed by March 2018. Many users suspect that this move, and its timing, could have been related to President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong by the British colony back to China. This visit provoked heated discussions in the media about to what extent the democracy of Hong Kong would be affected.
According to the MIIT, any basic telecommunication companies and internet access service providers are barred from setting up or renting special lines, including VPNs, to carry out cross border operations without the proper approval.
All these recent regulations and the war against popular VPNs like GreenVPN are causing a major concern for all internet users in China who have been depending mainly on VPNs and mirror websites to enjoy complete online freedom. With the current regulations shutting down one alternative online freedom solution after the other, it’s difficult to imagine what’s next.
The move against VPNs started this year, however other restrictions in other forms of media like television and other media websites have been taking place for a few years now. Any type of media that appears against the government’s approval or morality was immediately banned.
China has been known for all these restrictions and all its internet users have been gradually adapting to the situation, but the concern now is more about whether or not the impact would reach the more democratic Hong Kong, especially after the recent rising interest of China’s president on that region. Hong Kong is considered one of the business capitals of the world and if China’s online restrictions start reaching there, the massive business operations taking place in Hong Kong would be highly affected.