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China crackdown: VPN vendor gets prison

Nine months for letting punters bypass Great Firewall

By Richard Chirgwin, 5 Sep 2017

A Chinese man has been sentenced to nine months in prison for helping his fellow citizens drill through the Great Firewall with virtual private networks.

Guangdong province-dwelling 26-year-old Deng Jiewei started offering the VPN software on his Website in October 2015, according to a judgement posted by the Supreme People's Court. He was first detained in August 2016 and formally arrested the following October.

Deng netted 14,000 Yuan – a little over US$2,100 – for his efforts, and that modest take was shared with an as-yet-unnamed partner.

The South China Morning Post says the sentence was handed down in March but only published over the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, after trend-spotter What's on Weibo noticed and published news of the sentence, VPN users have been somewhat spooked (note: What's on Weibo and the SCMP give different dates for the sentence, the former saying the sentence was given in January - El Reg).

Part of that concern has to do with the wording the judgement uses, namely that Deng's transgression was that the VPN software constituted “invading and illegally controlling” computer systems.

China has recently clamped down on attempts to evade its Web censorship regime. In January, the Ministry of Industry and Information published new rules requiring ISPs, cloud providers and VPN resellers to get regional government licenses to operate.

Last month, Apple found itself criticised for banning VPN apps from its China store, something Cupertino explained is in line with its policy of adhering to local laws. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing