Chinese VPN use is again in the news this week after New York Times‘ Paul Mozur reported that Chinese users of mobile VPN services have been finding their whole mobile service has been cut off.
Some residence in the North-West region of Xinjiang, China have found their entire mobile connection cut off with minimal warning after making use of VPN services to evade the Great Firewall of China.
The firewall is a system that restricts users from accessing many western services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram amongst others. As well as users of VPN services others who have downloaded western encrypted communications tools such as Whatsapp have also found themselves disconnected.
While Chinese internet has always been highly curtailed in an attempt to block both news outlets and social media that allows the spread of news this is the first time that we are aware of that they have actually disabled users’ mobile services for using systems that bypass Chinese censorship.
Users affected by the issue reportedly received a text message around 2 hours before the cut off stating:
Due to police notice, we will shut down your cellphone number within the next two hours in accordance with the law. If you have any questions, please consult the cyberpolice affiliated with the police station in your vicinity as soon as possible.
It is currently unclear how many users are affected in Xinjiang and if other areas of China will follow suit, however, reports suggest that within one area of Xinjiang around 20 people were found to be waiting at the local police station made up of both Chinese nationals and some foreigners to have their service reconnected.
Chinese users losing access to mobile networks
One user claims that police took away his mobile device and after a few minutes returned saying it had been blocked for using software to bypass the Great Firewall of China. The same user claims to have used a VPN to access Instagram but after the latest incidence states he will now avoid doing so in future as it is too much hassle.
The penalty for doing so and turning up at the police station? three days mobile network suspension.
The latest incidence isn’t the first time China have clamped down hard on users who attempt to circumvent the countrywide firewall that blocks access to some of the most popular services and apps from around the world.
Many users rely on VPN services from the likes of IPVanish to bypass such blocks on their desktop systems. While internet use in China is booming the percentage of mobile users has now overtaken those of traditional home internet connections making mobile access more critical.
While many VPN providers offer mobile VPN apps for some of the most popular Android and iOS devices the latest development of cutting off users’ mobile networks will be concerning for Chinese residents.