Fang Binxing Navigates Around Great Firewall

Fang Binxing Navigates Around Great Firewall

Recent foreign media coverage of Xi Jinping has led China’s internet censors to block news sites with offending articles, including The Economist and Time.

GreatFire later reported that their data about both sites being blocked was “contradictory,” meaning they were not consistently blocked at all times. Both magazines had published articles linking Xi Jinping’s policies to those carried out under Mao Zedong.

Meanwhile, Fang Binxing, who is known as the “Father of the Great Firewall” because of his role building the infrastructure for internet censorship in China, found himself in the awkward position of having to deploy a VPN to get around the Great Firewall while giving a public presentation. The BBC reports:

Fang Binxing was giving a speech on internet security at the Harbin Institute of Technology when he tried to access a South Korean website, but was blocked by the system, according to the Hong Kong-based Ming Pao website. To continue with his speech, he was forced to set up a virtual private network (VPN) – a common practice used to skirt state censorship – in full view of the audience. Perhaps to avoid embarrassment, the university scrapped a scheduled question-and-answer session.

Mr Fang was using South Korea as an example of another country that – according to him – uses a similar system to China’s internet controls, the website reports. Government censors in South Korea are known to block some sensitive content, such as websites which praise North Korea, although nowhere near on the same scale as in China. [Source]

In 2011, Fang was mocked online after admitting to utilizing six separate VPN services to get around the technology that he helped build. He has been a regular target of netizen disgust, and once had eggs and a shoe thrown at him by students protesting internet censorship.

Fang retired as president of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications in 2013 and was recently appointed to head a new industry association focusing on cybersecurity. Nectar Gan of The South China Morning Post reports:

Fang Binxing, known as the father of the Great Firewall for helping to develop the internet blocking apparatus, was elected the head of the association at yesterday’s inaugural meeting by 257 founding members.

The aim of the non-profit association was to “serve as a bridge” between the government and the public to “organise and mobilise forces in all aspects of society to participate in building China’s cybersecurity,” Xinhua said.

The association will play a guiding role in cybersecurity governance, help promote self-discipline in the industry and push for the establishment of industry standards, according to a statement on the internet regulator’s website. [Source]


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