July 11 (UPI) — Virtual private networks allow Internet users in China to get around a heavy online censorship regime, but access to VPNs may be taken away in the world’s most populous country.
Bloomberg reported Monday the Chinese government has instructed state-run telecommunications companies to bar user access to the private networks by Feb. 1, 2018.
Beijing’s online censorship program is already one of the world’s most vigorously enforced. The Chinese Communist Party is wary of media critical of its rule that could lead to social instability, according to the report.
Chinese censorship rules prevent Internet users from accessing social network platforms like Facebook or Twitter. It also blocks The New York Times and other foreign news services.
Kaiser Kuo, former head of international communications at Baidu, one of the largest companies in the world, said the latest regulation warns of “dark days ahead.”
“If they’re as interested in security and stability as they say they are, then they should leave VPNs accessible,” Kuo said in a Facebook post. “The number of people using them in China is really small, but really vocal — and I don’t think they’ll just take this lying down. Will reflect very badly on the party. Dark days ahead.”
Foreign individuals and entities operating in China should be prepared for the worst, according to U.S. analysts.
“This seems to impact individuals most immediately,” said Jake Parker, the vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council. “VPNs are incredibly important for companies trying to access global services outside of China.”
“In the past, any effort to cut off internal corporate VPNs has been enough to make a company think about closing or reducing operations in China. It’s that big a deal.”
The three Internet providers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom are state-owned, according to The Guardian.