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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 upcoming year-long trip around Australasia, East & Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent.

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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

Weibo Administration: “We’re No Longer Targeting Gay Content”

After a storm of critique following a ban on gay content, Weibo announces it will no longer specifically target cartoons, games, or videos relating to homosexuality.

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Three days after Sina Weibo announced a clean-up of its platform that included a ban on homosexual content, it has announced that it will no longer target displays of homosexuality specifically.

Weibo administration (@微博管理员) wrote on Monday afternoon (Beijing time): ” This time, the cleanup of anime and games won’t target gay content. It is mainly [meant] to clean up content related to pornography, violence, and gore. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions.”

On Friday, the announcement that, along with violent and pornographic content, homosexual content would be targeted in a new online clean-up campaign, ignited a storm of discussion. Thousands of netizens then responded to the campaign with the hashtag “I am gay” (我是同性恋#).

The announcement and its aftermath show many similarities with a Weibo campaign of 2017, in which the platform said it would ban “displays of homosexuality” in online videos. Then, an official account of the Communist Youth League replied that “being gay is no disorder.”

Although comments on Friday’s Sina Weibo announcement have been locked for viewing, the responses to the new announcement on Monday were open to see.

Within three hours after Weibo’s Administration posted the rectification, it had been forwarded more than 33,000 times and received over 7500 comments. “I hope you’ll never announce discriminatory guidelines again,” some netizens said.

The Weibo account LGBT (@LGBT) responded to the new notice, writing that: “Weibo’s homophobic storm has settled,” and that this was a “step forward” in showing “respect for people who are different.”

By Manya Koetse

Screenshot of announcement:

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Directly support Manya Koetse. By supporting this author you make future articles possible and help the maintenance and independence of this site. Donate directly through Paypal here. Also check out the What’s on Weibo donations page for more information.

©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

Weibo’s New Online Guidelines: No Homosexual Content Allowed

The official Weibo Community Manager announced a 3-month-ban on online content on April 13, including that on displays of homosexuality.

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On April 13, Weibo’s Community Manager issued a notice with new guidelines for the social media platform to “create a bright and harmonious community environment.”

In the notice, that received near to 20,000 comments and over 96,000 shares shortly after it was posted (see screenshot), the official Sina Weibo account writes that, in order to “fulfill the corporate responsibility,” the platform will adhere to Internet Security Laws in strictly overseeing cartoons, games, videos, and other related content published on Weibo for a 3-month-period.

The Weibo Community Notice says its “clean-up” mainly targets content related to cartoons, images, and short videos relating to pornography, “bloody violence”, and homosexuality.

Violent content, such as that of the Grand Theft Auto game, will also not be allowed to appear on the social media platform.

According to the account, a total of 56,243 related violations were already “cleared” at the time they published the notice.

Although the announcement received many comments, they were not viewable at time of writing.

On their own accounts, many netizens also shared their views on the announcement: “According to China’s classification of mental disorders, being gay is not a mental illness,” one person writes: “Heterosexuals and homosexuals enjoy the same basic human rights. Publishing homosexual content is not illegal, and it should not be banned. It is my right to publish this post, and it would be wrong to delete it.”

“I object to Weibo’s guidelines against homosexual content. This is 2018, why do you still want to control everything people say?”

The slogan “I am Gay” (#我是同性恋#) also took off shortly after the announcement, with hundreds of netizens raising their voice against the guidelines by using this hashtag, some combining it with the hashtag “I am illegal” (Or: “I am breaking the law”) (#我违法#).

“If we don’t raise our voices now, then when will we?”, some said. “I am homosexual, and I am not proud of it, neither do I feel inferior,” one person stated.

This is not the first time the regulations for online content regarding the display of sexuality on Weibo are sharpened. In 2017, Chinese authorities also issued a statement in which they wrote that online audio-visual content on sites such as Sina Weibo would no longer be allowed to have any “display of homosexuality.” At the time, the Communist Youth League responded to the guidelines by posting: “Being gay is no disorder!”

Another commenter says: “I am an adult, and I should be able to view books, cartoons, or videos targeted at an adult audience. You’re now telling me I can’t view content relating to sexuality?”

“I am equal,” one Weibo user writes: “Why can’t we just respect each other?”

By Manya Koetse

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


Directly support Manya Koetse. By supporting this author you make future articles possible and help the maintenance and independence of this site. Donate directly through Paypal here. Also check out the What’s on Weibo donations page for more information.

©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. ©2014-2017

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