et another individual has found himself in trouble with the law in China after being caught selling unauthorized VPN services online.
From April 2016 until his arrest in October 2017, the programmer, surnamed Dai, operated a website that sold VPNs to hundreds of Chinese customers, according to a report released Tuesday by a court in Shanghai’s Baoshan district.
For this, Dai was given a suspended three-year prison sentence and fined 10,000 yuan by the court.
While this appears to be the first case of its kind in Shanghai, Dai is not the first in China to be prosecuted for selling the means to subvert the country’s infamous Great Firewall. Last year, China launched further strengthened its already iron grip on the internet, launching a crackdown on the selling of unauthorized VPN services.
VPNs exist in a legal gray area in China. Many businesses rely on government-approved VPNs for daily operations and no one has been prosecuted for using a personal VPN on their computer or phone. However, over the past year, several individuals have found themselves in court after attempting to profit by selling unauthorized VPN services to customers over the internet.
Last August, for example, a man in Guangdong province was sentenced to nine months in jail for making 14,000 yuan selling VPN software online. Several months later, a more prolific VPN vendor in Guangxi was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and fined 500,000 yuan for his own unauthorized operation.
Those arrests created a bit of panic among China’s many foreign VPN users last year, particularly when coupled with a doomsday report from Bloomberg which alleged that China was planning to ban all personal VPNs by February 2018. That deadline came and went without any change. On March 31st, China did indeed institute a formal ban on unlicensed virtual private networks, however, that ban appears to have had no real practical effect.