China signals censors will continue to crack down on VPN services

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China has defended its growing attempts to control the Internet, after disrupting several services that allowed users to view the Web free of censorship.

"As the Internet develops, and new circumstances arise, we will take new regulatory measures to keep up," said Wen Ku, a director with China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, at a news conference on Tuesday.

The statement doesn't bode well for providers of virtual private networks (VPNs). These services can allow users to circumvent China's censorship and access the Internet unfiltered.

Last week, VPN providers including Astrill, StrongVPN, and Golden Frog reported access problems with their services.

In the case of Astrill, China has been disrupting the VPN protocols it once used to provide unfiltered Internet access to iOS devices, the company said in a posting for customers. "We know how access to unrestricted Internet is important for you, so our fight with Chinese censors is not over," the VPN provider added in a later posting.

"In China, the Internet's development must follow China's rules and regulations," Wen said, when reporters asked about the growing censorship and the logic behind the new measures. "Certain harmful content will be regulated according to Chinese law."

But the ministry wasn't concerned that the censorship might disrupt the local Internet industry. Wen pointed to the success of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and the company's massive initial public offering on the U.S. stock market, as an example.

"Everyone can see that this is all because of the Chinese government's policy safeguarding the environment for the developing Internet industry," he said.

In recent months, China's Internet has become more censored than ever. The government has already blocked Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Last year it began cutting access to all Google services, in addition to several foreign mobile apps.

VPN services are gaining popularity among some sections of the Chinese public, and have become a convenient way to access popular foreign sites not allowed in the country.

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