The Chinese government has tightened its grip on the country’s internet.
Chinese authorities have announced a 14-month long campaign that will target the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), and make it harder for its own citizens to visit unsanctioned and unapproved websites that criticise the Chinese government.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also stated its plans to “clean up” illegal and unauthorised internet connections.
The news of the VPN crackdown was initially reported by the South China Morning Post said whose article said the move was linked to other widespread efforts to manage the information available online ahead of an upcoming Communist Party congress which will also apparently see a “major reshuffle” of party leadership.
China has some of the most highly regulated and monitored internet access in the entire world. Authorities use several different technologies to police and spy on what people say online and what sites they can visit. Popular sites such as Facebook and YouTube are blocked and hidden behind what is commonly referred to as China’s Great Firewall.
The crackdown on VPN use faces many issues however. VPNs are used as standard across many business, and help limit the amount of confidential information traveling across public networks.
The VPNs used by individuals and businesses, as well as dedicated leased lines, must now obtain official permission to operate or face criminal prosecution.
The State media agency Xinhua also reported that 5,500 “illegal” apps were removed from online stores by regulators for circulating pornographic and violent content. the government also shut down 17 websites as part of the nationwide clean-up. Among them was the Tianze Institute of Economics website, run by Chinese economist Mao Yushi. Mao, an activist who has spoken out in support of greater political transparency.