After news broke out that state-run telecommunications carriers—including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom—will block individuals from accessing VPNs by February 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) responded yesterday saying that reports from foreign media are untrue.
The Ministry stated that it has not banned personal VPN use and explained that the notice—which was issued in January this year—concerns cross-border business activities and does not include domestic and foreign enterprises as well as the majority of users.
However, MIIT added that the targets of the notice are businesses and individuals that lease international lines or use VPNs to provide cross-border telecommunication services without the approval of the relevant telecommunications departments and without the qualifications for managing international telecommunication services. This opens many questions about which companies will receive permission to operate VPNs and how these approvals will be granted.
This recent rebuttal echoes the January directive, which basically says that only authorized VPNs can be used in China, making most VPN services illegal. The regulations issued in January by the MIIT are aimed at barring illegal activities and “purifying cyberspace”.
So far, no VPN service has gained official permission to operate in China. In fact, the opposite is true: one of China‘s most popular VPN service providers, Green VPN, was ordered to cease operations in June 2017.