THE creator of China’s ‘Great Firewall’, an internet censorship tool widely used by the communist ruling party, was recently forced to circumvent the blocking system in front of an audience during a public talk recently.
Fang Binxing found himself in the awkward position when he used a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass the firewall during a talk on internet security at the Harbin Institute of Technology when attempting to gain access to a website hosted in South Korea.
According to the BBC, Fang keyed in the address of the website, only to be met with a warning on the projector screen which indicated that the site had been blocked, prompting him to use a VPN client to gain access and proceed with his speech.
The news was recently shared widely on social networks such as Sina Weibo, although it was not mentioned in the Chinese media.
A VPN service allows users to hide online activity from prying eyes and also access services and websites that are blocked or unavailable in their country. For example, VPN can allow someone in China to access Facebook and Netflix, something they normally wouldn’t be able to do.
Fang, a member of the Chinese Communist Party who holds a PhD in computer science, played a key role as a chief engineer who developed China’s internet censorship system – which is now used to block Facebook and other websites such as Twitter.
Communist leaders encourage internet use for education and business, but use an extensive system of monitoring and filters to try to block access to material deemed subversive or obscene.
The system’s controversial nature has earned it a reputation as the “Great Firewall of China” and Fang has grown to become despised among some internet users for his role in its creation.
The firewall has played a part in the government’s clamp down on leaks from the ‘Panama Papers’ which reportedly revealed a trove of details on the wealth of the world’s powerful and elite.
According to the Associated Press, China’s internet censors and state media outlets have squelched reports on hidden wealth drawn from documents leaked from the Panama-based law firm that name relatives of current and retired Chinese politicians, including President Xi Jinping.
Additional reporting by Associated Press