VPN blocks exist to keep internet 'healthy': Chinese official

Responding to recent move to block virtual private network services in the world's most populated country, a Chinese official said on Tuesday that it will uphold scrutiny in order to keep pace with the rapid development of the internet.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is adopting new approaches to maintain cybersecurity and steady operation in China, Wen Ku, director of telecom development at the MIIT, said in a press conference on Tuesday. He cited issues rising from the rapid uptake of the internet in China.

"Cyberservices need to abide to Chinese laws, and bad information will be dealt with in accordance with the laws. With the development of the internet, the country will come up with new methods to tackle these new issues," said Wen, according to the Hong Kong Economic Times.

Wen was responding to the country's recent moves in blocking virtual private network (VPN) services. Since the end of December, China paralysed Gmail services completely on the Chinese mainland, and visiting via a VPN service is the only way remaining for internet users to assess their Gmail accounts on the mainland.

However, since last week, a number of VPN providers including Astril and StrongVPN have claimed disruptions in providing services in the country. A news report published on January 23 on the English version of the Global Times -- an outspoken Chinese official newspaper -- said the Great Firewall has been upgraded to protect "cyberspace sovereignty".

The report interviewed several analysts, drawing the conclusion that "cyberservices should observe the network governance of the country for safety".

Qin An, a cybersecurity expert at the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy, told the Global Times that Chinese authorities could not overlook VPN services.

"For instance, a shortcut has to be blocked since it could be used for some ulterior purposes, although it might affect others who use it in a right way," Qin said.

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