Father of Chinese Online Censorship Forced to Use VPN

In an ironic twist only China could supply, the country’s renowned “Father of the Great Firewall,” Fang Binxing, was forced to use a VPN at a presentation he gave recently after being confounded by his own creation.

Binxing is widely credited for masterminding the vast censorship and monitoring apparatus that has helped the Communist Party of China filter and block online content inside the country for over two decades.

However, at a recent talk on internet security at the Harbin Institute of Technology, local reports suggest Fang was forced to use a VPN to jump the Great Firewall after a Korean site he tried to visit was blocked.

In a double twist of irony, Fang was trying to use South Korea as an example of another country which has built a censorship apparatus to block access to specific sites, according to Hong Kong-based site Ming Pao.

It should be noted that Seoul’s approach is nowhere near on the scale of China’s.

According to posts seen by the BBC, it wasn’t long before Chinese netizens took to social media to vent their scorn.

One user on Chinese Twitter rival Sina Weibo apparently mocked Fang for being so committed to his work that he failed to build a backdoor into the Great Firewall, “even for himself.”

It has become increasingly difficult to use VPNs inside China over the past 15 months, as the government under president Xi Jinping looks to clamp down ever further on internet freedoms.

Although the crackdown tends to affect consumer-grade services more than corporate ones, the impact on businesses can’t be understated, and is particularly severe during periods of political sensitivity, such as last month’s CPPCC and NPC ‘legislative’ meetings.

Last summer an open source circumvention project dubbed “ShadowSocks” was removed from GitHub after police allegedly forced the developer’s hand.

“This incident with ShadowSocks makes it clear that the Cyberspace Administration of China is working closely with state security and local police to further Xi Jinping’s crackdown on internet freedom in China,” wrote Charlie Smith, co-founder of non-profit Greatfire.org.

“We strongly encourage all developers who are operating in the internet freedom space in China to stay anonymous. This should include choosing to continue your work on an anonymous basis.”

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