Is it Legal to Use a VPN in China?

In China, it is illegal to use VPNs except those approved by the government. This law applies to companies and corporations rather than individuals. So, it is unlikely that your personal use of VPNs will be detected. Continue reading to learn more about VPN usage in China.

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Minimal Risk for Personal VPN Usage

Officially, the government has banned the use of internet lines not approved by the government. So, general VPN services are illegal because they are not approved by the government. On the other hand, when you use a VPN approved by the government, you will notice that popular websites like LINE and Facebook are not available in China.

If your illegal use of VPNs is detected, you can receive fines or prison sentences. But there are almost no cases of individuals being prosecuted for illegal personal use of VPNs. This law applies to companies and corporations rather than individuals.

We, the administrators of this site, always use a VPN while staying in China. And we know many acquaintances in China who use VPNs to access websites such as YouTube. But we have never heard of any individuals who have gotten punished. So, we think that it is unlikely that your personal use of VPNs will be detected.

The Purpose of China’s Internet Censorship

There are two reasons.

The Purpose of China’s Internet Censorship
  • To prevent systematic criticism about Chinese government over the internet
  • To grow Chinese services by excluding foreign firms

Considering the above, if you engage in the following behavior, it is likely to be detected by the government.

  • Getting overseas information by using a VPN, and extensively criticizing the government based on that information
  • Giving a lot of publicity towards foreign services
  • Engaging in a business of recommending VPNs not approved by the government

On the other hand, if you are engaged in behavior that the government tends to ignore, it is unlikely that your illegal use of VPNs will be detected. However, please remember that sometimes the government takes actions which generally prevents access to VPN services.

Five Rules for Using a VPN in China

There are five rules for using a VPN in China.

Five Rules for Using a VPN in China
  • Use It Only for Personal Use, and Don’t Publicize It
  • Don’t Use VPNs for Revenue Generation
  • Don’t Spread Information from Overseas Unnecessarily
  • Avoid Content that is Critical of the Government
  • Avoid Using Free VPNs

Use It Only for Personal Use, and Don’t Publicize It

Considering the reasons for the restrictions, if you use a VPN only for personal use, it is unlikely that this will be detected, because the government doesn’t crack down on merely personal use. However, it is likely that your use will be detected if you recommend the use of a VPN extensively on social media to your friends and others.

Don’t Use VPNs for Revenue Generation

You shouldn’t use VPNs for business purposes, especially if it involves offering VPN services or contracting work from abroad. There have been instances reported in the media that highlight the risks associated with using VPNs for revenue generation.

A Chinese programmer who was working for an overseas software company while circumventing the Great Firewall has found himself on the wrong side of the law. The programmer, who was employed from 2019 to 2022, was actively engaged in coding tasks on GitHub, addressing user queries on support platforms, and even conducting remote work via Zoom.

However, his work beyond China’s internet restrictions didn’t go unnoticed. The local authorities in ChengDe stepped in and deemed the programmer’s earnings of 1,058,000 RMB as “illegitimate income.” As a result, he was slapped with a 200 RMB fine and had the substantial sum of 1,058,000 RMB (144,991 USD) confiscated as “proceeds of illegal activities.”

https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/16qzbil/chinese_programmer_fined_three_years_salary_for/

Don’t Spread Information from Overseas Unnecessarily

You shouldn’t spread information from overseas unnecessarily. For example, don’t share YouTube videos you’ve watched on social media because the government will notice that you are using illegal VPNs.

Avoid Content that is Critical of the Government

There are more than a few foreign media outlets which are critical of the Chinese government. Some of this content is not reported in China. If you report or engage in this kind of criticism of the government, your use of an illegal VPN may be detected.

Avoid Using Free VPNs

There are free VPNs. But we don’t recommend free VPNs in terms of privacy and security because we don’t know how free VPNs manage our log traffic data. In addition, your online activity, such as personal information and traffic data, is likely to conveyed if you use a free VPN.

If you use VPN services, we recommend paid services with experience operating in China like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

The Best VPN Services for Use in China

It is hard to contract with a VPN service while staying in China because it is illegal to use a VPN except those approved by the government. So, if you want to use a VPN in China, you should sign up for the services and download their app before arriving in China. In addition, you should select a VPN service which is able to get through the firewalls that the government sets up regularly to block VPNs.

Here are some excellent VPN services we recommend.

Prices1-Month: $12.95
6-Months: $9.99/month
12-Months: $6.67/month
1-Month: $11.99
12-Months: $4.99/month
24-Months: $3.99/month
1-Month: $12.95
12-Months: $3.99/month
24-Months: $2.39/month
Money-back Guarantee30 days30 days30 days
Countries10560100
Servers3,000+5,800+3,200+
Maximum devices supported56Unlimited
Connection SpeedUltra FastFastFast
SecurityAES-256
Kill Switch
AES-256
Kill Switch
AES-256
Kill Switch
PrivacyNo-loggingNo-loggingNo-logging
Support24/7 Live Chat Support24/7 Live Chat Support24/7 Live Chat Support

ExpressVPN: Ultra-fast Internet Speeds

Top page of ExpressVPN
Prices
1-Month: $12.95
6-Months: $9.99/month
12-Months: $6.67/month
Money-back Guarantee30 days
Countries105
Servers3,000+
Maximum devices supported8

ExpressVPN has some of the fastest internet speeds of the VPNs we have used. ExpressVPN is consistently found by review sites to be one of the fastest VPNs. Furthermore, they have more than 3,000 servers in 105 countries, so you have a lot of choices for which country to change your IP address to. We have confirmed that you can even connect to servers in China, where restrictions are strong. And ExpressVPN has a no-log policy.

After you’ve registered with ExpressVPN, you can use it to easily browse the internet just by downloading their app.

Ideal for those who:
  • Place a high importance on internet speed
  • Want a stable connection from China

\30 day Money-Back Guarantee/

NordVPN:  The Ultimate Balance of Price and Internet Speed

Top page of NordVPN
Prices (standard plan)1-Month: $11.99
12-Months: $4.99/month
24-Months: $3.99/month
Money-back Guarantee30 days
Countries60
Servers5,800+
Maximum devices supported6

NordVPN’s excellent service, and balance of price, internet speed, servers, and countries, has allowed it to gain the greatest market share in the world. Overall, NordVPN consistently receives great reviews from leading experts. NordVPN  has more than 5,800 servers in 60 countries, so you also have a lot of choices for which country to change your IP address to. We also have confirmed that you can even connect to servers in China, where restrictions are strong. And NordVPN also has a no-log policy.

After you’ve registered, you can easily browse the internet using NordVPN just by downloading their app.

Ideal for those who:
  • Want to balance price and internet speed
  • Want to use the VPN with the greatest market share

\30 day Money-Back Guarantee/

Surfshark: Impressive Performance with a Lower Price

top page or surfsharkvpn
Prices (standard plan)1-Month: $12.95
12-Months: $3.99/month
24-Months: $2.39/month
Money-back Guarantee30 days
Countries100
Servers3,200+
Maximum devices supportedUnlimited

Surfshark offers impressive performance with a lower price. You can get Surfshark much cheaper than other services if you apply for the 24-month plan. Furthermore, Surfshark has no connection limits. So, you and your family can connect and use all your devices simultaneously. Surfshark has more than 3,200 servers in 100 countries. Just like the other VPNs, you also have a lot of choices for which country to change your IP address to. And also, we have confirmed that you can even connect to servers in China, where restrictions are strong. And SurfsharkVPN also has a no-log policy.

After you’ve registered, you can easily browse the internet using Surfshark by downloading their app.

Ideal for those:
  • Who are budget conscious
  • Who want to connect with lots of devices

\30 day Money-Back Guarantee/

FAQ

What sites and apps are blocked in China?

Here are some notable examples of services blocked in China:

  • All Google services (including Gmail, Google Translate, Google Search, Google Drive, Google Docs etc.)
  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
  • Video sharing platforms including YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitch.
  • News media sites like the BBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters.
  • Various other platforms such as Dropbox, GitHub, SoundCloud, Flickr, Skype, WhatsApp, Spotify, Hootsuite, Slack, and Wikipedia.

The duration of these blocks can vary, with some sites being blocked temporarily, while others are blocked permanently.

Regardless of restrictions, users in China can unblock most of these websites and apps by employing a reliable VPN service. Always remember to arrange your VPN service before entering the country for seamless internet access.

What is today’s best VPN in China?

It is which stands out as the best VPN for use in China today. It’s reliable, fast, secure, and remarkably easy to set up and operate. An assurance of its no-logging policy is given by the audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, providing users with the confidence that their identities will be well-protected while surfing the web and streaming content in China. Moreover, ExpressVPN is unrivaled in its ability to unlock and bypass restrictions on banned websites and services. These qualities combined make ExpressVPN the prime choice for navigating the internet in China. Best VPN services for China

Conclusion

Conclusion
  • In China, it is illegal to use a VPN that hasn’t been approved by the government. However, this law applies to companies and corporations rather than individuals. So, it is unlikely that your personal use of VPNs will be detected.
  • There are four rules for using a VPN in China, “Use it only for personal use, and don’t publicize it”, “Don’t spread information from overseas unnecessarily”, “Avoid content that is critical of the government” and “Avoid using free VPNs”.
The Best VPN Services for Use in China
  • : Recommended for those who need higher internet speed
  • : Recommended for those who want to balance price and internet speed
  • : Recommended for those on a budget
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