China Blocks VPNs Ahead of WWII Parade

As is customary, the Chinese government is holding a parade on Sept. 3rd to mark the end of World War II. What is also customary is the government cracking down around this time on virtual private network (VPN) usage by using the “GFW auto learning technique”. If you were in China and tried to use Astrill VPN on your iOS mobile device, you would see a message like the one below.  It looks like Astrill and other VPN services that use IPSec connections may be limited.

VPN Message

People use VPNs all over the world for various reasons. A VPN will help you get around geo-restrictions. A geo-restriction is a technology used by governments or companies to restrict content. In China, the government blocks access to sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter by using their system called GFW. Most people will tell you that stands for the “Great Firewall of China”, a reference to one of their most famous structures.

China has always had a problem with dissidents. Memories of the June 4th, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre still haunt quite a few Chinese residents. Beijing had a rich history of protests last century, and that one was no exception. It is estimated between 100s – 1000s of deaths that occurred during the crackdown, and you can bet the government, if they even knew, would never confirm the truth. In fact, The government has banned any discussion or remembrance of the events since.

There could be a few reasons for the timing of this shutdown. Of course, the government states its because of the parade. Was the timing of this crackdown merely an excuse though? No government is known for their honesty, and China is no exception. It is possible this could only be a temporary crackdown, but the timing may also be used as an excuse.  China would love to continue cracking down on encryption services.

Next week’s ceremony in Beijing will mark the 70th anniversary of WWII coming to an end.  While no western leaders will be in attendance, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are expected to be at the event.  We fully expect China to pull back the VPN restrictions after the WWII event is over.  While I’m sure China would love to block citizens from using encryption services they have been known to crack down around major events like next week’s parade.

Ultimately, the Chinese government is flexing their muscles. There have actually been disruptions in services already this year because of the strengthening of the great firewall. According to the Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2015 the Chinese government ushered in a new filtering system that made it more difficult for users to access blocked websites like Gmail and Youtube.

As time goes on, the Chinese government may find it more and more difficult to keep the strangle hold on their people. The Communist party is working very hard to keep the old ways of China intact, but as the economy and the country grows more technologically advanced, that won’t be easily done. That is just one of the battles that takes place in China on a daily basis.