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A Weibo user was banned for reporting nationalist commentator Hu Xijin for using an illegal VPN.
A Weibo user was banned for reporting nationalist commentator Hu Xijin for using an illegal VPN.

A Weibo user was banned for reporting nationalist commentator Hu Xijin for using an illegal VPN.

Blogger Xiang Dongliang’s Weibo profile was blocked after he exposed Hu Xijin, a nationalist blogger and former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, for utilizing a VPN to bypass China’s Great Firewall (GFW). Hu Xijin is notorious for his aggressive online persona, particularly on foreign platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter), which are restricted in China and require a VPN to be used.

On November 24, the People’s Court of Wenchuan county in Sichuan province released a video that sparked controversy. The video sternly warned Chinese internet users against using software to bypass China’s firewall, stating that it is considered illegal regardless of the user’s purpose. The video’s spokeswoman also cautioned that attempting to surpass the wall would put individuals in the crosshairs of the enemy’s traps, which are carefully laid and have illegal, collusive, and political implications. Additionally, the video interprets “firewall circumvention” as a type of hacking or criminal intrusion into a computer system, adding to the concerns surrounding this issue.

After watching the video, Xiang Dongliang, a commentator and blogger known as “Basic Common Sense,” shared a quote from the Wenchuan court and reported Hu Xijin to authorities for using a VPN to bypass internet censorship and access foreign websites.

The court of Wenchuan County states that using software to bypass the Chinese firewall is illegal, regardless of the intent.

I am filing a report with my real name accusing retiree @Hu Xijin of breaching the firewall without authorization, and request that @SafeBeijing (@平安北京, Píng’ān Běijīng) look into the issue. [Chinese]

Xiang’s efforts to bring attention to the law and expose its inconsistent enforcement were ultimately unrewarding. The following day, November 25, Xiang’s personal Weibo account was banned for violating laws and regulations. In a post on his still-active WeChat account titled “Is Hu Xijin Exempt from the Law?” Xiang pointed out the absurdity of punishing someone for trying to report illegal activity to the authorities.

If the statement made by the Wenchuan County Court is accurate, then the actions of retiree Hu Xijin in climbing over a wall are clearly against the law and he should be detained. In this case, my Weibo account will have played a role in removing a harmful presence from the public.

If bypassing the firewall and accessing the internet is not against the law, the Wenchuan County Court, being a part of our nation’s judicial system, has disseminated inaccurate legal information and greatly disrespected the integrity of the law. In that scenario, they should release a statement and apologize – my Weibo account will have done a great service by disproving such false claims.

If a retired individual attempts to bypass the firewall, should they confess and take responsibility? If such action is permissible, then all individuals should have access to the unrestricted internet to experience it firsthand. However, if it is against the law, they should turn themselves in to the authorities promptly and hope for leniency.

All individuals are treated equally under the law. Regardless of your social status, you are subject to the same laws and regulations.

In China, using a VPN without government authorization is considered illegal. Those who are caught using them may face consequences such as warnings, fines, or even visits from the police to discuss their social media posts on foreign platforms. However, some punishments can be severe. In 2017, a man was given a prison sentence of five and a half years for selling VPN services. Another individual, a Uyghur university student, received a 13-year sentence for simply using a VPN. Recently, the government has increased penalties for those caught attempting to bypass the “Great Firewall.” A well-known blogger known as program-think, who had been providing detailed instructions on how to circumvent the firewall on his blog for many years, was arrested in 2021 and charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” He was sentenced to seven years in prison, based on his writings published on foreign websites.

The online dispute between Xiang Dongliang and Hu Xijin garnered significant interest from both within and outside of the GFW. CDT editors compiled sarcastic remarks from Chinese users on X (formerly known as Twitter), which were posted outside of the Great Firewall.

The character from the TV show “In the Name of the People” known as wangluo8899 stated, “I determine what is lawful and what is unlawful.”

On August 26th, the command was given for “Eunuch Hu” to climb the wall, but this directive cannot be disclosed.

zhihunanana: “Safe Beijing” is very efficient indeed, and solves people’s problems immediately.

The laws in China are adaptable, accurate, and discriminatory.

woyongdehuawei: How dare you mess with a eunuch bearing a golden “circumvent-the-GFW” free pass given to him by the Emperor?

zh4915045615971: Thumbs-up for China’s speedy response.

hahaha1603: What an intense ending.

shokoshen: Scaling the wall depends on your status, and Hu Xijin is no ordinary person.

Could you assist me in reporting Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson who frequently posts on social media platforms like X and Twitter?

In an article published on November 27, Wei Chunliang, writer of the WeChat blog “亮见” (Liang Jian), spoke out in support of fellow blogger Xiang Dongliang. He pointed out the flaws in the decision to ban Xiang’s account while disregarding Hu’s wrongdoing.

One of two events must have occurred: either Hu Xijin violated the law, or the Wenchuan County Court made an error. This reasoning is sound and does not appear to have any logical flaws.

Xiang Dongliang believed that his actions were either aiding in eradicating a societal problem or disproving false information. In either case, he considered it a virtuous act.

I have always believed that even though the internet is segregated into “internal” and “external” regions, logic knows no boundaries. All individuals, regardless of their location, must acknowledge logic.

It appears that our initial assumption was incorrect.

Arthur Kaufman made a contribution to this post.