Chinese police have increased their crackdown on the use of virtual private networks (VPN). An ongoing crusade that is planned to run until March 31, 2018 was reported by calvinayre.com in January who also refer to a 14 month campaign. The government’s efforts are important to all forms of free information flow into and out of the communist country whether for free enterprise, political dissent, or to feed the seemingly insatiable gambling appetites of the Chinese people.
The Chinese government likes to know everything about what its citizens do online. They also like to control which websites Chinese people can visit. To get around that, many people in China use VPNs to surf anonymously and make it appear as if they are located somewhere else. Lotteries are the only legal gambling in the country outside of Macau and are controlled by the government. In the U.S. and Canada, VPNs are most commonly used to escape school network restrictions or to watch Netflix shows that are otherwise unavailable in one country or the other.
According to a Chinese government document available online, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has decided to “clean up” the communications infrastructure in China to rid it of “disorderly development”, standardize market order, and strengthen security. Many, according to a BBC report in August, see it as a way to rid the state-owned China Telecom of increasing competition in order to preserve profits. The company, which provides a large share of revenues to the government, posted US$775 million in profits for the first quarter of 2017 which indicates expected profit for the year of about US$3 billion. In the case of many state-owned Chinese companies the government is entitled to 50% of profits.
For gamblers, it means they will only be able to buy government approved VPN apps, which of course, means they aren’t “private” at all. And while operators such as Bet365 will not likely restrict access to people in China, bettors may think twice before exposing their activities to VPN providers “in bed” with the Chinese government.
One VPN developer interviewed by the BBC told them that he doesn’t expect the government to shut down all VPNs even though they have the technology to do it. He believes that since they can “see” who is using them and could flip a kill switch at any time, they are more interested in controlling than closing.