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Internet Blocks, the Great Firewall and VPNs


roddy
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How are you getting round Internet blocks in China?  

67 members have voted

  1. 1. How are you getting round Internet blocks in China?

    • I just give up and read the China Daily
      20
    • Free web proxy like Anonymouse
      21
    • Paid web proxy like Proxify
      3
    • A browser plug in like Gladder
      12
    • I installed a bit of software, like Tor
      21
    • Something else which I will detail below . . .
      3
    • Port forwarding over SSH to a remote proxy, like Imron
      10
    • VPN, like Witopia
      56


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I had two VPNs when I came here, one of which is ExpressVPN and another one that I'd been using for years in India, Singapore and Australia.

 

After being here for 3 months I've found ExpressVPN to be reliable enough that I cancelled my other one. 

 

Sometimes you have to hunt around for a server that will connect you (Bulgaria is my secret weapon!), but most of the time the suggested "Smart location" works fine in my experience — usually LA5 but also a couple of UK servers and Tokyo are good bets.  Inability to connect to common servers does seem to pass, yes.  

 

 

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2 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

70th anniversary [of] the PRC.

 

My work colleague was riding into the office today and passed over a railway bridge where he saw a train of flat-bed trucks carrying TANKS!

 

Thankfully we know why, but still... quite an alarming sight I would imagine.

Edit: I'm in Beijing, not Shenzhen 

 

 

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7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Point is: security will be tight

A close family relative is in Beijing at the moment. They had a booking for several nights at a hotel in a central location, but before the free cancellation period expired decided to check whether any restrictions would be in force for guests. It turned out guests would not be permitted to leave or enter the hotel from 5pm to 5am for the duration of their stay.

 

Fortunately, alternative accommodation was found at the last minute. 

 

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14 hours ago, Moshen said:

If it's a hardship for me to go more than a day without connecting to US websites that are probably blocked in China, then should I get a backup VPN also?

You might find it hard then. Even with a working VPN Internet use is still mostly patchy. It says connected but you can’t get websites, it drops out, it’s slow, it won’t connect etc. It doesn’t matter which service you get. Having two might help you although I’ve found the one you have to be most reliable.

 

Then again, if you’re not in a major city (especially Beijing) perhaps it will be easier. I’ve mostly given up relying on blocked sites for stuff as there’s always a chance I won’t connect for a couple of days. Of course, if I do connect I go on them still. Living here it’s too frustrating to keep trying to access them. Facebook fell by the wayside years ago. MSN news actually just uses other news sites stories (Washington Post, USA today, the Guardian, etc) and isn’t blocked. 

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MSN news actually just uses other news sites stories (Washington Post, USA today, the Guardian, etc) and isn’t blocked. 

Thanks, that's interesting. So you can read articles from the Post and NYTimes on MSN even though you can't get those websites? In that case, I'll download the MSN app to my phone.

 

My big worry is getting blocked from my email somehow or from some business-related website that uses Google services.

 

Quote

A close family relative is in Beijing at the moment. They had a booking for several nights at a hotel in a central location, but before the free cancellation period expired decided to check whether any restrictions would be in force for guests. It turned out guests would not be permitted to leave or enter the hotel from 5pm to 5am for the duration of their stay.

Wow, that could put a dent in one's vacation plans.  We'll be staying at my mother-in-law's apartment, which is rather close to Zhongnanhai in Beijing, but we won't be arriving until after October 1st, so hopefully security will have eased then.

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The level of security is amazing.  I had been staying at a hotel near the Forbidden city.  Starting yesterday, it had the restrictions similar to those mentioned (no entering or leaving the hotel after 17:30 until 2 AM for 14 & 15 Sep)  Even the hotel workers aren't allowed to leave or enter.  It came up suddenly with <1 day's notice for the hotel.  Notably, the hotel manager said the guests that complain the most about the restrictions are the Chinese.  The foreigners generally accept it.  Because the restrictions came up suddenly, they would allow guests to move to another hotel without paying a penalty.

 

There is so much security everywhere around Wangfujing, I actually felt uncomfortable.  I thought it was just me, as a foreigner.  However, later a Chinese friend said the security also made her uncomfortable.  On the subways, the normally bored guards keep looking at everyone (as if we're planning to cause problems).  (it's ironic to write this, i.e., security making one fell less safe as opposed to more safe....).  

 

In terms of Internet blockages, I was amazed:  I tried to check how much data I had on Verizon with my phone, but the website was blocked while on the hotel's wifi.  On cellular data, I could check the site.  (it may been that way in previous years, in which I wasn't using an app to check my phone data).  I've not tried a VPN on my phone.  

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On 9/15/2019 at 5:00 PM, Moshen said:

y big worry is getting blocked from my email somehow or from some business-related website that uses Google services.

I set up automatic forwarded on my google email account. Every email received is automatically forwarded to a different, accessible email account. You can also do this. Of course when you reply it will be from the accessible address but it’s an easy work around and, for you, it’s temporary. If you can just make an address with an accessible provider but leave the address name the same. For example, [email protected] .... create a QQ or Hotmail account as [email protected] / [email protected] 

 

I find people don't notice the difference or even question it. 

 

Business related sites... you can check online if a site is blocked in China. There are a few websites that do this. This is one. 

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1 hour ago, ChTTay said:

I set up automatic forwarded on my google email account. Every email received is automatically forwarded to a different, accessible email account.

 

I get my gmail messages forwarded to my apple icloud email, which I never really used until arriving in China.  Presumably this is similar to what @ChTTay is doing.

 

At present, icloud services like email, icloud drive and calendar/notes etc all work fine. (Whereas dropbox and evernote don't.)

 

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@mungouk yep, same situation. It’s rare anyone emails my gmail account now as it’s been so long but there are still mailing lists and the occasional blast from the past. 

 

For the OP it makes sense if they’re worried about email being inaccessible due to vpn unreliability. Get a QQ email and you can be fairly it will not be blocked! 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am in Beijing now and ExpressVPN is working great on my mobile but so far I can't get it to work on my laptop.

 

Not a huge problem as I can get  my email and the news from home perfectly fine.

 

QUESTION: I am wondering if the Vpn causes my mobile battery power to be used up more quickly as it seems to be draining more quickly than back home. It's android if that's relevant.

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1 hour ago, Moshen said:

QUESTION: I am wondering if the Vpn causes my mobile battery power to be used up more quickly as it seems to be draining more quickly than back home. It's android if that's relevant.

 

Yes. The phone will send "keep alive" data packets periodically to keep your VPN session open. It's not so much the data, but the fact that the VPN program doesn't become dormant.

 

I just carry a powerbank with me. If you buy an expensive one, just make sure that the power rating doesn't rub off. I've had one confiscated at Beijing airport because they couldn't read the capacity.

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  • 9 months later...

This may be of interest or concern to readers - 1.2 TB of VPN logs leaked by no-log VPNs. 

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The information included plain-text account passwords, VPN session secrets/tokens, IP addresses of client devices and servers, the operating system being used, and more. 

 

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