Home / News / World /  'Crackdown on VPNs bypassing Great Firewall': China imposes ‘emergency’ level censorship

China's Covid cases hit a record high from the start if the pandemic in 2019 for the second time in a row, on 28 November. The Xi Jinping government's strict ‘Zero Covid policy’ has now seen violent protests emerge across the country, as people in white PPE suits protest the stringent Covid curbs. 

Protesters had taken to social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to post protest content owing to severe censorship on Chinese platforms.  On 29 November a report was published by Mint, stating that Chinese police is reportedly checking citizen's phones for their access to social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Chinese protesters have reportedly shared news of local public defiance, accompanied with dozens of videos which are now circulating outside the country.

Following this the Chinese authorities have imposed “emergency response" level of censorship on its citizen, to curb the content leaving the precinct of the country. “Level I Internet Emergency Response, the highest level of content management", the directives, also published and translated by the China Digital Times, a US-based news site focused on Chinese censorship, came from China’s cyberspace administration

What is ‘emergency’ level censorship? 

The emergency level censorship includes a tough crackdown on the virtual private networks being used by protesters to access Chinese social media apps and chines news websites. 

“Pernicious political slogans appeared in Shanghai; college and university students held conspicuous political gatherings; smears by foreign media increased; and various websites have strengthened their content management," the directive listed as examples of incidents that need to be controlled.

During an extraordinary week in China, protests against zero-Covid restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping – which was further highlighted by the death of the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

The directives revealed authorities’ specific concerns about the growing interest among citizens in circumventing China’s so-called “Great Firewall".

The demonstrations have been strictly censored, but protesters and other citizens have used VPNs to access non-Chinese news and social media apps that are banned in China.

What emergency level of censorship entails?

The measures will include a crackdown on VPNs and other methods of bypassing online censorship following unprecedented protests against country's zero-Covid policy, Guardian reported.

Managers have been ordered to take a “hands-on approach" and strengthen content management to rapidly identify, deal with and report information about what it termed “offline disturbances" and “recent high-profile events in various provinces".

The managers have also been asked to be very vigilant on certain dates. This includes- one-week anniversary of the Shanghai fire incident, World Human Rights Day, and International Anti-Corruption Day. 

E-commerce platforms ordered to “clean-up" the availability of products and apps and “harmful content" designed to circumvent internet restrictions, such as VPNs and firewall-circumventing routers.


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