China: Man Given 5 Years In Jail For Running VPN

A Chinese man, who made thousands of dollars from a virtual private network (VPN), has been sentenced to five and a half years in jail. Wu Xiangyang was behind the sale of software that allowed people to get past the internet censorship controls.

China has The Great Firewall, which regulates the internet across the country. The GFW blocks access to some of the most popular foreign websites, including search giant Google. It also requires foreign companies to adapt to the domestic regulations.

Wu started his VPN service back in 2013 and made over $75,000. According to a report, he was also fined the same amount. Wu ran the virtual private network (VPN) for a while but that ended in June. Before he was caught, the service was being used by thousands of people and businesses.

In recent years, the government has continued its plans to increase the internet controls. In July, reports said China had ordered telecommunication companies to block access to VPNs by February 2018. The internet controls have been around for a while but it is believed that millions of citizens still get past them by using VPNs.

Wu’s sentence has shocked experts as it’s one of the longest ever given to a citizen. William Nee, a researcher at Amnesty International in China, said the long sentence for selling VPNs is a very worrying sign. It is unclear why Wu received a much longer sentence than those who have been arrested for doing the same in the past.

In September, another man was sentenced to nine months in jail after he was caught selling VPN software. The man had created his own website and was selling the software through there. According to reports, the man was arrested in October 2016 after he was caught selling two types of VPN software. The man had made a little over $2100 by selling the software through his website. The news of the sentencing surfaced eight months later.

Back in August, Chinese authorities issued a warning to the country’s biggest online retailers over the sale of illegal VPNs. The five companies were told to remove any vendors that sell VPNs. In July, Apple removed all major VPN apps from its Apple Store in China. The news were confirmed by those behind the removed apps. The apps were reportedly removed because they include content that is illegal in China.