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China to introduce new law to punish VPN providers

China wants to punish those who provide technology that bypasses censorship.

China’s internet watchdog has proposed a new law that would crackdown on entities that help internet users bypass the “Great Firewall” to access banned websites. The law could further give the government control over internet usage.

On November 14, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced the proposed regulation that would further crack down on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other services people in China use to access the long list of websites blocked in the country.

The proposed rule, titled “Network Data Security Management Regulation,” states that no organization or individual can provide “programs, tools, routes, or services,” such as internet access, app downloads, and server hosting, for “penetrating and bypassing the cross-border data security gateway.”

Violating the law could result in the license of a business being revoked, and fines of 10 times the profit from the offense, or 500,000 yuan for offenders in managerial positions.

The regulation will most likely pass without being opposed.

China has been trying to police internet usage since 1997. Back then it proposed that accessing foreign sites should only be done on government-designated channels. In 2009, an amendment to the criminal law introduced a seven-year sentence for anyone “providing programs or tools to intrude or illegally control computer information systems.”

However, the rules were not applied strictly. The crack down on VPNs began in 2017. Apple was forced to delete more than 670 VPN apps from the China App Store.

If the new proposal passes, it will be the harshest effort to prohibit the use of VPNs in China.

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