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Five years in prison for selling VPNs

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The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around China’s internet censorship came under increased scrutiny in 2017, and while officials have denied a complete block on the services, a recent case from Guangxi highlights the perils of unauthorized trafficking in access to information.

  • Wu Xiangyang 吴向阳 received a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence and a 500,000 yuan ($76,000) fine for selling VPNs since 2013 without a proper license, the South China Morning Post reports, citing the Chinese-language Procuratorate Daily.
  • It’s a much more severe punishment than that handed down in another illegal VPN case earlier this year. In that case, the defendant Deng Jiewei 邓杰伟 was sentenced to nine months in prison. Profit may at least partly explain the difference: Wu was reported to have made more than 500,000 yuan from his VPN business, compared with the 14,000 yuan earned by Deng.
  • For more on China’s tightening control over cyberspace, listen to this Sinica podcast from September featuring Adam Segal of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sky Canaves

Sky Canaves previously reported for The Wall Street Journal in Beijing and Hong Kong, where she covered media, culture, social issues, and legal affairs, and served as the founding editor and lead writer of the WSJ’s China Real Time site. Prior to becoming a journalist, Sky worked in the China corporate law practice of Baker & McKenzie, and she has also taught journalism and media law at the University of Hong Kong. She speaks Mandarin and has accumulated more than a decade's experience living, studying and working in China.