Will I get in trouble for using a VPN in China

Good Question

China’s rules and regulations are constantly changing, hard to interpret, and inconsistent. Basically what this means is that nobody knows, not even the authorities, and usually VPN regulations are rarely enforced, unless there is crackdown and/or a big “event” coming up.

Don’t get me wrong, crackdowns do happen from time to time and the crackdowns have been getting consistently worse. But don’t worry, crackdowns are usually short lived and many of the tier 1 VPN companies have tech staff to work around any potential problems.

TL;DR: Technically personal VPN usage is banned in China, but it would be very unlikely to run into trouble for using it.

Legitimate uses for VPNs in China

The Chinese government allows embassies and large multinational companies to access VPN services. These entities then use VPN services from state approved ISPs, which cost multitudes more than private VPN services.

In July, 2017, during a round of VPN crackdowns, the Chinese government blocked the Embassy of France’s VPN line. This furthermore proves that legitimate and illegitimate VPN have not yet been recognised by the Chinese government.

Private VPN Services

Technically VPN services are banned for personal use in China and recently many Chinese VPN service providers have been shut down. Contrary to what you see in the news the situation is very different on the ground as many Chinese people and foreigners alike use private VPNs to access vital services and information.

Unless you are in a sensitive region, like Xinjiang or Tibet, you will most likely not run into trouble when using a private VPN. First of all, tens of millions of people use VPNs in China, and I would imagine that it would be logistically impossible to send a law enforcement officer down to every single user and arrest them.

“Then again China bans 10 things every month”

Choose VPN Services That Are Located Outside of Mainland China

VPN services that have headquarters in other countries are more reliable as they are not subject to the rules and regulations of the People’s Republic of China.

The Chinese Government Knows People Will and Are Using VPNs to Circumvent the Great Firewall

You can say that VPN usage in China runs rampant is an unexpected effect of implementing the “Great Firewall of China.” The officials know that people need to access outside information and services such as Google’s products, social media, porn, news, etc.

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