China upgrades its Great Firewall to regulate VPNs

I have lived in China for two years now and I must say I am absolutely disgusted by the new censorship measures enforced by the Chinese government. Especially this new one.

Here's how the story begins. Late April, before the Easter holidays, I was still enjoying live TV streaming from french channels through my regular VPN. It wasn't too fast but good enough to stream correctly without much buffering. When I got back from holiday early May, I noticed that all my VPNs still worked but the speed had become incredibly bad, I could barely access websites - let alone stream live video. I thought it would be temporary or that maybe peering between China Telecom and Europe was saturated.

But it got worse. At work (I work at a foreign school) ever since I got back from holiday, our connection would get shut down every now and then. Nearly every single foreign website (most IP addresses outside of China) would be unreachable for hours. We decided to investigate the issue with our ISP, China Telecom. Unfortunately, it turns out that the reason our connection gets blocked is because the Great Firewall detected that some people in our school were using VPNs.

Today I got to talk with some China Telecom employee (#1 Internet Service Provider in China) and he informed me of the new measures taken by the government to enforce the Internet censorship laws. Here is a summary of the points that I remember hearing from the guy:
  • the GFW as they call it (GFW for Great FireWall) is controlled by the government up there in Beijing, China Telecom themselves can't do anything about it. All Internet traffic goes through the firewall.
  • they recently upgraded their systems to take further action to enforce Internet censorship law... sometime between late April and early May.
  • previously, their systems only enforced a "black list" kind of censorship. They kept a massive list of blocked domains, IP address, keywords, and so on.
  • since the upgrade, they are able to modify routing tables in order to actually prevent any communication with foreign IP addresses when they detect usage of a VPN.
  • both campuses of our school are having the same issue, even though they are in completely different areas. It is reported that other businesses/offices/organizations are experiencing the same issue as of late.
  • when it comes to the general consumer, when usage of VPN is detected, bandwidth gets severely capped. I have no idea how they proceed, but anyhow that's what the China Telecom dude said.
 Are you experiencing issues too? I would like to get additional information and testimonies from people all over China. While I am reporting pretty much exactly what the guy said, it could have been bullshit from China Telecom trying to clear their name seeing as Internet in Shanghai is crappy.

As a reminder, the Chinese censorship completely disable access to the following websites (including all related services): Facebook, Youtube, Dailymotion, Twitter, any form of video streaming hosted outside of China, any form of pornographic content, random searches on the Internet, global news websites from mainstream media, and so much more.

I don't know what they are trying to achieve with this. There will always be ways to bypass the "great firewall", network technology always adapts itself. Tunnelling can be done in all sorts of ways, no matter the port, no matter the protocol, no matter the IP address, no matter the encryption method... tunnelling is merely a principle, a concept that they will never be able to block fully. They're just making it a lot less convenient right now, and the speed's worse than before... but still doesn't prevent anyone from accessing blocked sites.

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