VPN – Virtual Private Networks are used for a lot of purposes when one is surfing the internet. The main one being protecting your identity and also helping you to bypass censorship and other measures put in place. Thanks to them, you have unlimited access to content around the world, freedom isn’t it? Well, not anymore if you’re in China.The only way that individuals living in China can bypass the great fire wall that prevents access to many services and websites based on content is now not available.
New regulations which were issued in January by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China have now taken effect. The Chinese government in conjunction with Apple made sure of this. The result, Apple’s App Store for China got rid of almost all VPN apps, including those of big giants in the sector such as Express VPN. The fate for Android apps that offer an alternative to bypass the censorship is also unclear. Other third party stores offer these apps since Google Play Store doesn’t work in China.
In one of its blog post, Express VPN wrote this, “all major VPN apps had been purged from Apple’s China-based store.” Express VPN also shared why it had been removed according to a note from Apple. The note said that their service included content that is illegal in China. Star VPN also shared the same fate. Later on, Apple issued an official statement that said it was required to remove the apps because they were violating the Chinese law. In the statement, Apple also stated that it was complying with regulations put in place; that is, all VPN apps are required to be explicitly licensed by the government before their operation in China.
This purge is a huge blow to individuals in China who rely on VPN services to access the internet beyond the great fire wall. With Apple doing what’s best for business, their customers will surely miss freedom as there’s no any likely way to fill the void left by the VPNs. Express VPN also went ahead and condemned this move; Express VPN wrote, “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties,”
With the Great Firewall upgraded as reported by Reuters and the VPNs gone, it’s now possible for the government to interfere with people’s privacy. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat were also affected, users were unable to communicate effectively as one cannot send videos and photos. It’s not the first time the government has used Apple to enforce censorship regulations. This is what happened to news apps and sites such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.
For individuals outside the Great Fire Wall, you still have the freedom to access the internet without restrictions. But hope your government doesn’t borrow this idea from China.