A 26-year-old man from the city of Dongguan, Guangdong province, has been sentenced to 9 months in prison for selling VPN software through his own website.
According to China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) database (China Judgments Online) Deng Jiewei was found guilty for the crime of “illegal control of a computer system”, contained in Article 285 of China’s Criminal Law.
The criminal law Article states:
“Whoever violates state regulations and intrudes into computer systems with information concerning state affairs, construction of defense facilities, and sophisticated science and technology is be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment or criminal detention.”
The prosecution notice, issued online on an information disclosure platform of the People’s Procuratorate (人民检察院案件信息公开网), states that the man was arrested in October of 2016 for setting up a .com website earlier last year through which he offered two types of VPN software, making a total profit of approximately 2125 US$ (14000 RMB).
The notice clarifies that the .exe software sold by Deng allowed users to circumvent China’s web censorship and visit foreign websites.
“I am scared we could all be arrested now.”
Although the sentencing took place in January of this year, the news only surfaced on Chinese social media on September 3rd, soon gaining over 6000 shares on one Weibo post about the issue, and over 4000 shares of another post that reported the sentencing.
Many netizens questioned the severity of the punishment for selling a program to browse the Internet. “The crime of wanting to know the truth and selling a ladder,” one person said, referring to VPNs as a way to ‘climb over’ the Great Firewall of China. Another Weibo user posted an image of George Orwell’s 1984 in response to the news.
One commenter sarcastically wrote: “I suggest we now also bring back the crime of counter-revolution (反革命).”
Some netizens wondered how the man could have been prosecuted under Article 285: “How can using a VPN be defined as ‘intruding into computer systems’?”, one Weibo user asked.
Another person also noted that the law concerns the intrusion of computer systems relating to ‘state affairs’, but that the prosecuted man was only running a small-scale website selling VPN software. “According to this sentencing, I am also guilty for using a VPN,” he said. Another commenter shared similar worries: “I am scared we could all be arrested now.”
Chinese authorities have introduced numerous restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs) this year. In January, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a notice that it will strictly contain the unapproved use of VPNs by Chinese firms.
In July, Bloomberg News reported that the Chinese government had instructed telecommunications carriers to block VPN access by all individuals in China by February 2018. Shortly thereafter, Apple removed all major VPN apps from the App Store in China.
On Weibo, some see the prison sentence for the VPN-seller in Guangdong as another sign that authorities are stepping up their fight against software that allows users to browse blocked websites. “The dark days are coming,” one man writes.
Featured image by paper.wenweipo.com
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Online Controversy over Mandatory GPS Tracking Smartwatches for Chinese Street Cleaners
Being a street cleaner in 2019 China now involves wearing a mandatory smartwatch with GPS tracking.
Earlier this month, the introduction of smartwatches tracking the movements of street cleaners in Nanjing attracted the attention of Chinese netizens and international media after the new policy was made public on April 3rd.
In March of this year, the sanitation department in the Hexi area of Nanjing, Jiangsu, started a pilot with a smartwatch that sanitation workers are obliged to wear. The watch has a built-in real-time GPS tracking system, allowing the Nanjing Hexi Smart Sanitation Center to monitor workers’ movements.
In a short video published by Toutiao News, a spokesperson of the Smart Sanitation Command Center* explained that the smartwatch currently allows the company to assess the workers in three ways: they can register workers’ attendance, collect statistics of workers leaving their designated work area, and report on workers that remain in the same position exceeding the allowed amount of time.
Sanitation workers also commented on their new working system. One person interviewed said: “Why wouldn’t I be allowed to have a half-an-hour break? Look, the street is all clean, there is nothing to be cleaned up. They are crazy for making us move up and down the street for no reason.”
Street cleaners also said that the system would automatically report them if they had been in the same spot for more than twenty minutes. The smartwatch would then subsequently encourage them to move, calling out “Jiayou! Jiayou!” (“Come on! Come on!”).
That particular function was reportedly removed shortly after public outcry on the policy.
On Weibo, the hashtag “Smartwatch Automatically Yells ‘Jiayou'” (#智能手表自动喊加油#) received over 2,5 million views, with the majority of commenters strongly rejecting the new approach.
Most commenters on this issue argued that the implementation of the smartwatch is “immoral” and that the Nanjing workers are “treated as criminals.” Many others also pointed out that the workers, often senior citizens, should be able to rest for more than 20 minutes.
In light of the new policy, many people on social media also referred to the infamous fictional character Zhou “Bapi” (周扒皮). In the novel The Killing Wind, this landlord Zhou would stick his head into the henhouse stirring up the roosters to wake his laborers up earlier, so they would start working.
Some netizens came with an alternative solution, suggesting that the leaders of the company should wear the smartwatches themselves instead.
While the controversial function was eliminated, the GPS tracking function still stands.
Nanjing is not the first city to introduce GPS tracking smartwatches for its sanitary workers. Other cities where the same policy has been introduced are, for example, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Qingdao, according to Chinese media outlet Global Times.
In the summer of 2018, various Chinese media outlets already reported about the introduction of smartwatches for street cleaners in Guangzhou. At the time, the smartwatch policy was described as an innovative way to solve staff deployment and management problems, giving team leaders more insights into the real-time position of the street cleaners.
Whether or not the smartwatches do indeed improve work efficiency of street cleaners is still unclear, but there are no indications that the smartwatch policy will be changed at this point.
The tough work conditions of Chinese street cleaners, who work long hours and receive minimal pay, regularly become an issue of debate on Chinese social media. Besides praising the hard work of China’s public cleaners, Chinese netizens often express their sympathy for the bad circumstances under which street sweepers have to work.
By Gabi Verberg
* (南京河西建环”智能环卫”综合调度监控指挥中心 Nanjing Hexi Jianhuan “Intelligent Sanitation” Integrated Dispatching Monitoring Command Center)
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Digitalizing China’s Beauty Industry: Introducing Supermakeup’s ‘Beauty Charging Stations’
Are ‘makeup charging stations’ the next trend in China’s beauty industry?
You’re on the road and need a skin, make-up, or hair fix-up before your next appointment, but have no time for a spa session and would rather avoid dirty toilet rooms? These are the kinds of situations that Beijing’s Supermakeup company has claimed to have found the solution for.
With its ‘beauty charging stations’ in public urban spaces, the Supermakeup company is trying to launch a new kind of beauty industry where women can use their self-service ‘spa booths’ and make-up product stores in the middle of a street or shopping mall.
Access to the booths is provided through the Supermarket app or via its WeChat programme, and payment of products and access is done via WeChat Pay.
The Supermakeup Company (北京超级美科技有限公司) was established in March of 2018 and is headquartered in Beijing.
Will this be the big next trend that will further digitalize China’s beauty industry? We tried it out for you, check out our latest video below.
By Manya Koetse
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