China has announced their new 14-month campaign to “clean up” the internet service providers and bring down devices like virtual private networks (VPNs) that are used to evade their strict censorship.
The ruling party oversees a huge apparatus designed to censor the online content that deemed politically sensitive and blocking many Western websites and the services of the internet giants including Twitter, Facebook and Google.
China passed a controversial cybersecurity bill in the last November, increasing restrictions on online freedom of speech and also imposing some new rules on the service providers.
But companies and individuals use VPNs quite often to access the unfiltered internet that is beyond China’s “Great Firewall”.
Internet service providers and telecom will no longer be allowed to set up or even rent any special lines such as VPNs without the official approval, said the ministry of industry and information technology Sunday.
Their “clean up” campaign would last upto March 2018, as said in a statement on their website.
The announcement came a few days after President Xi Jinping extolled the globalisation and denounced protectionism in a speech at World Economic Forum in Davos, where he said that China is committed to “opening up”.
The internet access services in the Chinese market has grown rapidly, and “first signs of disorderly development are also appearing, making an urgent need for regulation”, the statement said.
The new rules were required to “strengthen internet information security management”, it added.
IT expert Li Yi told the Global Times newspaper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, the new regulations were “extremely important”.
While some multinationals such as Microsoft needed VPNs to communicate with overseas headquarters, other companies and individuals “browse overseas internet pages out of illegal motivations”, Li said.
A 2015 report by the US think tank Freedom House found that China had the most restrictive Internet policies of 65 countries it studied, ranking below Iran and Syria.
China is home to the world’s largest number of internet users, which totalled 731 million as of December, the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center said Sunday.