Fan Binxing, architect of the China’s infamous Great Firewall, was put in the embarrassing position of having to use a VPN in front of a live audience when trying to access a blocked web page.
On April 3 Fang Binxing was giving a speech on internet safety at his alma mater, the Harbin Institute Technology. During the speech, he presented a defense for internet sovereignty and used North Korea’s own version of the system as a talking point.
Things got awkward really fast, however, when he attempted to access blocked web pages hosted in South Korea to demonstrate his point. From there his speech went from being a defense of the Firewall to a demonstration of its stupidity.
Unable to access the websites he needed to continue his speech, Fang somewhat unexpectedly resorted to the same illicit tool which all expats in China are all familiar with: the beloved VPN.
Those of us who have used VPNs in China know that it is at best a haphazard solution, with VPN users often plagued by spotty service and slow internet connections.
This problem was also demonstrated by Fang, with his internet connection cutting out twice while trying to access Facebook and Google. The problem was so bad that he ended up resorting to using Baidu to find a screenshot of a Google homepage.
The incident was so embarrassing that Fang ended up ducking out of a planned Q and A session that was supposed to take place after the speech, though not before exhorting his listeners to do he said and not as he did.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fang has earned the ire of China’s netizens. In 2011 during an academic activity at Wuhan University, disgruntled audience members hurled a shoe and an egg while he was on stage.
In 2013 during a graduation ceremony at Beijing Telecommunications University, he announced his retirement as dean of the university due to health reasons. Netizens immediately took to Weibo to cheer on his illness in hopes of bringing down the Internet’s public enemy number one.
By Stanley Yu