Chinese authorities sentenced a man to nine months in jail for helping people circumvent government-mandated blocks on the internet, according to a BBC report published Tuesday.
Deng Jiewei, 26, of the Guangdong Province will be incarcerated for unlawfully selling virtual private networks (VPNs), a technical program that gives users the ability to navigate the web anonymously through an encrypted, secure connection. VPNs empower Chinese citizens with the ability to evade the Great Firewall of China, the colloquial term for the country’s system, which prohibits a large portion of online activity and effectively allows officials to watch what people do online. Social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, are largely forbidden in the country, despite their respective massive popularity around the rest of the world.
The Chinese government recently warned several tech giants to not provide users with the ability to sidestep the country’s virtual block on content it deems illegal. It specifically ordered telecom companies in July to discontinue access to VPNs, according to Bloomberg. China’s decision yielded almost immediate results, after Apple ceded to the foreign pressure, announcing that it was removing VPN services from its App Store solely in China. (RELATED: Apple Is Selling Its Soul To Do Business In China)
In contrast to Apple’s apparent capitulation, Deng sold VPNs for more than a year, presumably fully aware of his home country’s distaste for such technological capabilities. He was originally arrested in August 2016. Along with a business partner, Deng made nearly 14,000 yuan (roughly $2,136 USD) selling the software, according to the South China Morning Post.
China’s propensity towards censorship manifests itself quite often, like in late June when the popular Netflix original “BoJack Horseman” was blocked just days after debuting in the country. (RELATED: China Battles For Internet Hegemony After America Gives Up Control)
However, China isn’t the only powerful foreign adversary of the U.S. to adopt such internet freedom-restricting policies. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning VPNs in July not long after China. Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor turned whistleblower, said the law is a “tragedy of policy.”
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