Minitrue: China Starts Blocking Foreign VPNs

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Websites must not quote from news about “China starting to block foreign VPN services.”

We reiterate the following propaganda discipline: information from sources which violate regulations or have not been verified by authoritative media must not be republished. (January 25, 2015)

有关“中国开始屏蔽外国VPN服务”的消息各网站不得转摘。

再次强调以下宣传纪律:违规来源的消息不得转载、未经权威媒体证实的消息不得转载。 [Chinese]

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) services Golden Frog, Astrill, and StrongVPN experienced severe disruptions last week. These services allow users to access the Internet outside of the . “Authorities apparently cannot ignore those services as they affect our cyberspace sovereignty,” cyber security expert Qin An told the Global Times.

The Global Times article also quotes “one of the founders of an overseas website which monitors the Internet in China” on its observations about the nature of the VPN blocking. This overseas website happens to be Greatfire.org, a Chinese Internet watchdog called “anti-China” by (CAC) spokesman Jiang Jun. Greatfire.org has issued an open letter to Lu Wei, head of CAC, in response to accusations by Jiang that the website’s report on a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on Microsoft Outlook is “groundless slander”:

We do not level accusations against CAC lightly. We took great lengths to provide data collected during the attack to back up our claims. Multiple reports confirmed our analysis, including screenshots and tests posted by Chinese internet users as well as independent analysis from security experts.

[…] We have noted your department’s denial of involvement in the Outlook MITM attack. However, Jiang Jun acknowledges that an attack took place. We assume that by proclaiming your innocence, you believe that others are responsible for the attack.

If CAC is not responsible for the attack, nor complicitly letting it happen, can you please explain how “hostile forces” can tap into the backbone of Chinese Internet and implement nationwide MITM attacks six times over the past two years? [Source]

Chinese news sites citing the Global Times English article are still available—for example, see reports on Phoenix and Sohu. The comments section of the Sohu page includes a lot of messages of support, but some are tongue-in-cheek:

Closer and closer to North Korea.

离朝鲜越来越近了

We should learn from North Korea when it comes to the Internet. Kim Fatty III does it better. Have intranet only, not Internet. Taobao and these other harmful websites for spending money should be stopped, too. Cut off 3G and 4G network access entirely. Have only the People’s Daily and the Guangming Daily. That will put us in a good situation. I firmly support the central government’s decision.

在互联网方面应该向朝鲜学习 金三胖就做得比较好 只有内网没有外网 淘宝这些害人花钱的也要停 什么3G4G网络统统关掉 报纸只能有人民日报光明日报 形势一片大好 强烈支持中央决定

I suggest that we shut down the Internet, cut off cell phones, and require central government approval of all international phone calls.

建议把互联网关掉,手机关掉,给国外打电话必须中央批准 [Chinese]

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.