Chinese netizens will find it more difficult to access banned foreign websites and social media platforms as Beijing has launched a crackdown on virtual private networks (VPN) that allow users to evade the strict censorship.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on Monday a campaign against unauthorized internet connections, including VPNs, “to strengthen cyberspace information security management”.
All VPNs and dedicated cable lines operating in the country, regardless of leased or self-built ones, must obtain a government license in advance, the ministry said in a statement.
The campaign, which begins immediately, will last until end-March 2018, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
VPNs have been popular among local and foreign Internet users in China, where the government has long imposed the so-called Great Firewall, as they allow users to gain access to blocked websites.
Now, with the government’s tightened grip on Internet access, a large number of netizens will begin to find their daily life no longer the same.
Global Times, a sister publication of China’s People’s Daily newspaper, quoted an independent IT expert as saying that Beijing feels the campaign is necessary in order to crack down on cross-border cyber crimes and also to prevent illegal access of overseas websites by companies and individuals.
Some Chinese netizens said they are worried the new rules will cut off their links to the rest of the world, but there were some who voiced support for the government’s move, Apple Daily reports.
China’s latest Internet crackdown is likely to be criticized by international human rights groups and other freedom advocates.
Last year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative listed China’s Great Firewall as one of the trade barriers for other countries.
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