Great Firewall creator uses VPN to get round his own creation.
Irony is the lowest form of wit they say, although many would argue it is still one of the funniest. Certainly events at the Harbin Institute of Technology recently could barely have been more perfectly delicious, as the founder of the Chinese Firewall was forced to use a VPN to bypass his own creation.
In scenes that could barely have been scripted in an episode of Veep or The Thick of It, Fang Binxing, who is widely acknowledged as being the “Father of the Great Firewall,” the tool by which the Chinese Communist regime controls and monitors the internet access of the country’s 1.3 billion people, was giving a presentation at his former university.
He was speaking on the subject of internet security and needless to say was advocating the Chinese regimes stance on the importance to national security of the extensive censorship program they operate.
According to Hong Kong based site Ming Pao, as part of this presentation, Fang was trying to draw an example of South Korea as a country which he claimed used similar controls. (IN reality, the controls put in place by the South Korean government are considerably less strict than those used by the Chinese Communist Party.
In doing so, he tried to visit a South Korean website only to find his access blocked by his own Great Firewall. Evidently this site was essential to the speech and he was therefore forced to use a VPN in order to gain access to the site and continue with his speech.
The VPN was allegedly already installed onto his machine which reveals that even the creator of the Great Firewall himself uses VPN technology to allow himself the free access to the internet that his work denies so many millions of other Chinese citizens.
A VPN works by diverting users internet traffic via an encrypted pathway to an external server, often based overseas, which allows users in countries which employ such censorship to bypass it by appearing to be surfing the web from elsewhere.
They are commonly used in China where the regime employs one of the most severe internet censorship programs in the world.
Binxings experience in front of the life audience mirrored that of many Chinese netizens as his VPN link was lost on two occasions as he tried to access first Google and then Facebook, both of which are unavailable in China.
Eventually he resorted to Baidu to get a screenshot of the Google homepage and then continued, but at the end of the session he declined to take part in a scheduled Q&A session.
In recent months it has become increasingly difficult to use a VPN there as the Government makes more and more of an effort to crack down on their usage. Indeed, experts have speculated that the problems faced by Binxing are likely to stem from the expansion of the Great Firewall to block any mention of the recent ‘Panama Papers’ offshore tax revelations. This has had an impact on some consumers within China, but has also had the, presumably unintended, consequence of affecting businesses, many of whom also use the technology for very different reasons.
Nevertheless, their use remains widespread, and it was not too long before users were leaping onto social media to mock their architect of their online suppression. Users on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of twitter mocked Fang Binxing for being so dedicated to his work that he didn't leave a back-door in the system, "even for himself" and left comments like "Blocked by his own system… This is just too hilarious."
As the younger generation in China is beginning to slowly wake up to the extent that they are repressed by the Communist regime there, VPN use has grown, and the farcical scenes witnessed by many at the Harbin Institute of Technology will have added more fuel to the flames of discontent which continue to simmer under the surface there,
In the meantime, it sadly remains the case that, despite the recent Government crackdown, a VPN is still by far the most effective way for Chinese citizens to enjoy unrestricted internet access.