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Chinese Man Sentenced to Prison for Selling VPN Software

A Chinese man running a small-scale website on which he sold VPN software has been sentenced to 9 months in prison. Weibo netizens take the man’s prosecution as another sign that authorities are stepping up their fight against software that allows people to browse websites that are blocked in China.

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A Chinese man running a small-scale website on which he sold VPN software has been sentenced to 9 months in prison. Weibo netizens take the man’s prosecution as another sign that authorities are stepping up their fight against software that allows people to browse websites that are blocked in China.

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.

By Miranda Barnes & Manya Koetse

Featured image by paper.wenweipo.com

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and parttime translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she now lives in Beijing with her British husband. On www.abearandapig.com they share news of their year-long trip around Europe and Asia.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. evolighting

    September 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Well, there is only things that they want you know and what really happen could never be found.

    Too many details are missing.

    • xidada

      September 5, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      It’s China.. I think you can be safe to assume the only thing he did was offer a VPN service considering he ‘only’ received a 9-month prison sentence..

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China Digital

6 Things to Know about the iPhone XS Launch in China

Noteworthy facts about the latest iPhone release in the PRC.

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On September 21st, Apple began selling its latest iPhone series to fans and customers across the globe.

The phones released are the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. The iPhone XS Max is the company’s biggest phone yet and boasts features like Face ID 2 for extra security, and up to 512Gb storage. But it is also the company’s most expensive iPhone yet.

Over the past days, topics relating to the latest iPhone are popping up on China’s online hot search lists, with the hashtag “New iPhone Release” (#新iPhone发布#) receiving 1,45 billion views, the hashtag #iPhone XS# receiving 320 million views on Weibo.

Here are six noteworthy facts to know about the iPhone XS in China:

 

1. Its front-facing selfie camera has a ‘Pitu’ effect

 

At time of writing, the phone’s front-facing “selfie” camera (#iPhone XS前置摄像头#), with more than 21 million views, is one of the most-searched topics on Weibo.

The camera is different from the cameras in earlier iPhone models in how it seems to add a filter to people’s skin. Although American media have reported that people complain about the “over-smoothing” of the skin because it makes them look “fake,” the great majority of Weibo commenters, on the contrary, like the function, and say it is welcomed in China.

TV presenter Liu Ye (@懂小姐刘烨) writes on Weibo: “About that pretty face result of the iPhone front-facing camera; now I even dare to post my photos without editing them in Pitu!” Pitu is a popular Chinese picture editing app.

Some netizens comment that the beautifying camera is much less controversial in China than abroad because Chinese people are already used to editing and photoshopping their photos by whitening the skin or making the eyes look bigger.

“This iPhone was actually designed for the female consumers in the Chinese and South Korean market, but accidentally ended up in the US,” one netizen jokingly says.

An older meme posted by commenter Lao Xu (@老徐时评) pokes fun at different smartphone cameras and how they make people look.”Perhaps foreigners like the reality more than we do,” other commenters suggested.

 

2. It’s even more expensive in China

 

The price of the latest iPhone is one of the biggest topics surrounding its launch. Although the phone already is very expensive in the US, its prices in China are even higher. While the iPhone XS 64 GB version is priced at $1099 in the US, the official online Apple store for China lists the same phone for RMB8,699 (±$1,270).

The most expensive model, the iPhone XS Max, costs a staggering RMB12,799 (±$1,860) for the 512Gb version. By comparison, the iPhone X which launched in 2017 cost $1,149 for the most expensive model in the US.

Beijing News points out on Weibo that the RMB12,799 model is 1,5 times the average monthly wage of Beijingers. “If I had the money, I’d buy it,” some people comment.

 

3. People are not going too crazy about its release

 

Although previous years have seen people getting up early and waiting in line for the latest iPhone models, this time, many people shared photos on Weibo of empty queues outside Apple retailers and launch events in China.

Despite the widespread online discussions of the latest iPhone, Chinese media outlet Sina.com reports that there has been more online interest in China in the new Apple Watch than in the iPhone XS.

Previously, the release of the iPhone 7 in 2016 also showed a similar trend, with many people saying they preferred made-in-China phones to the American iPhone.

Responding to the question ‘Why wouldn’t you buy the iPhone XS?”, most netizens mention the phone’s high price: “I’m too poor to buy it.”

 

4. The first person to own the iPhone XS was Mr. Wang from Hangzhou

 

TMall, Apple’s official online retailer in China, ran a promotional campaign to be the first person to own an iPhone XS, using the hashtag “The First iPhoneXS Person” (#iPhoneXS第一人#), which briefly went trending on the day of the launch.

The first person to own Apple’s latest offering turned out to be a certain Mr. Wang from Hangzhou, who bought the phone one minute after it went on sale. The ‘news’ was met with skepticism by netizens. “What’s the point of this story?”, was the most liked comment on Weibo.

 

5. It’s the first-ever iPhone to have dual sim slots (but only in China)

 

The Chinese version of the iPhone XS comes with a tray that can hold 2 sim cards, while the version sold outside of China has only got one sim card slot (allowing the creation of virtual SIMs).

The Chinese government controls and tracks sim cards and requires them to be registered to a user’s ID number, which might have to do with Apple’s decision to add an extra sim slot in the Chinese version. eSIMs allow people to connect to mobile networks without a physical sim card, making it easier, in theory, to create fake or untraceable accounts linked to the number. This could bypass controls on mobile phone networks and has been banned by Beijing.

 

6. The launch sparked controversy for listing Taiwan and HK as separate regions

 

Apple’s iPhone presentation earlier in September caused outrage and online debate in China, when Phil Schiller, the head of marketing, showed a slide where Taiwan and Hong Kong were listed as separate regions or countries from China.

CCTV soon called on the company to change its naming practices, and web users flooded the company’s official Weibo blog with complaints. Apple has not responded to the controversy yet. The official website still lists the two regions separately.

Also read our article on the most popular smartphones in China (2018).

By John Cowley and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Digital

Despite China’s ‘Broadcast Ban’ on eSports, Netizens Go Crazy for National Team’s Asian Games Success

Clumsy display of nationalism during China’s glorious esports win goes viral.

Gabi Verberg

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With 1.8 billion views (#电竞亚军会#) on Weibo, the 2018 Asian Games eSports Demonstration Event has been a big topic on Chinese social media. Despite a broadcast-ban, netizens went crazy for the Chinese team, that – somewhat clumsily – waved the Chinese flag in Jakarta.

The 18th edition of the Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, has come to an end. With 2,3 billion views on Weibo alone (#2018亚军会#), the Asian Games are a hit on Chinese social media.

The Asian Games marked the first time for esports (electronic sports) to be included in a major international comprehensive sports event.

On the 26th of August, the first day of the esports event, the Chinese team won their first gold medal after winning the game Arena of Valor aka AoV (王者荣耀). The second day, they won the silver medal with the game Clash Royale (皇室战争), ending just behind the Indonesian team.

But the most significant success was celebrated on the 29th of August. After a 3-day battle, the Chinese team won their second gold medal for their performance in the game League of Legends (英雄联盟). Their victory came as a surprise to many, since it was the South Korean team that had defeated China twice during the group phase. But this time it was the Chinese team that celebrated a three-to-one victory over the South Koreans.

Despite the national teams’ successes, TV-watching audiences on mainland China were not able to witness these important moments in sport; CCTV5, the state television’s national sports channel, did not broadcast any of the esports events. Much to the annoyance of many netizens, CCTV5 also did not allow any other platform the right to broadcast any esports events.

The reason for CCTV not broadcasting online computer games is because it is banned. In the ‘Notice on the prohibition of broadcasting online computer game programs‘ (关于禁止播出电脑网络游戏类节目的通知) issued by the National Radio and television Administration in 2004, it says that “radio and television broadcasting organizations at all levels shall not open to computer network games, and may not broadcast online computer game programs.”

That same notice also states that “online computer games have adversely affected the healthy growth of minors.”

On CCTV5’s official Weibo account, many netizens called for the broadcasting of the esports games last week, and vented their dissatisfaction towards state media for banning the broadcast.

One Weibo user wrote: “CCTV spends state money to get a monopoly on the broadcasting rights, and then they choose not to broadcast. It is a waste of the state’s money and disrespectful to the people who do want to see esports!” Some posts scolding the CCTV received thousands of likes.

Except for CCTV, Party newspaper People’s Daily (人民日报), also received many negative social media comments after thy published an article on the victory of the national team. In the comment section, readers wrote comments such as: ‘Now you want to congratulate? Weren’t you the one that didn’t want to broadcast live?’ and ‘I’ve been thinking, isn’t it time that CCTV gets its own E-sports channel?’.

Clumsy Display of Nationalism: ‘Handshake with the National Flag’

Despite China’s ‘ban’ on esports, the country’s esports athletes showed much patriotism during the Asian Games.

In an interview with Tencent Sports, one the players of the Chinese team, Jian Zihao (简自豪), who goes by the online-ID ‘Uzi,’ expressed his love and gratitude for China, saying: “It’s the first time the national esports team officially represents the country. We wear the national [sports]uniform from head to toe, with the five-star red flag printed on the left side of our chest and ‘CHINA’ in capitals on our back. […] we live in the same village as the other athletes. I never thought that this would happen to me.’

Jian Zihao

The team also had a noteworthy patriotic moment during the so-called ‘handshake with national flag incident’. After winning their second gold medal, the Chinese team gained much attention online when they somewhat clumsily kept on holding onto their national flag while shaking hands with the silver and bronze medal winners (video link).

After the award ceremony, the hashtag ‘Handshake with the national Flag’ (#举着国籍握手#) became a hot search on Weibo, with more than 27 million views.

The athletes later said that nobody dared to put the flag down, so they held it up while shaking hands. They reportedly said: ‘The national flag is the most sacred thing, we didn’t dare to make any mistakes.’

The moment the esports team shook hands with the other teams while holding the Chinese flag.

A Weibo post publishing about the moment titled the incident ‘Sorry, It’s the first time I won the  Asian Games Championship, [I have] no experience.’ (‘对不起,第一次拿亚运冠军,没经验.’); it was shared over 98 thousand times and liked more than 124 thousand times. Many netizens found it very amusing, calling the athletes ‘clumsy,’ ‘cute’ and ‘adorable.’

Whether the positive image of the athletes will be enough to lift the ban on broadcasting online gaming is not clear. Neither the CCTV nor People’s Daily have yet officially responded to the complaints. But as the next Asian Games are to be held in Hangzhou, China, in 2022, many are hopeful that the ban will be lifted by then. One thing is sure: their team is ready for it.

By Gabi Verberg

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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