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Censorship China Government Your Rights Online

Behind the Great Firewall: What It's Really Like To Log On From China 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the crack-in-the-wall dept.
alphadogg (971356) writes China makes headlines every other week for its censorship of the Internet, but few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them. This IDG News Service writer has lived in China for close to six years and censorship has been a near constant, lurking in the background ready to "harmonize" the Web and throw a wrench in his online viewing. It's been especially evident this month. Google's services, which don't follow the strict censorship rules, are currently blocked. How long that will last is unknown, but it coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests earlier this month — an event the Chinese government wants no one to remember.
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Behind the Great Firewall: What It's Really Like To Log On From China

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  • Just run a Tor obfuscated bridge.

    • by cyfer2000 (548592)
      China's GFW can dynamically identify Tor traffics and block them.
    • by Nimey (114278)

      Yes, and here's how to do it:
      https://www.torproject.org/pro... [torproject.org]

      I've been running an obfuscated bridge for about a year now. Setting up was pretty easy and it's been pain-free since then, especially since bandwidth usage limits can be set.

      For the uninitiated, a bridge is basically an unpublished entry point into the Tor system; unpublished means you have to send an email to or visit a certain server to be given the address of just one rather than being in the directory for all to see at once, meaning that it

    • by Zemran (3101)

      TOR quite simply does not work in China. I find it hard to understand why so many people here cannot see how easy it is to recognise protocols connected with TOR, VPN, Proxies, etc. and block any user that uses any forbidden protocol. None of these things work, not because they block the hubs or the addresses but because the they block the protocols.

  • by Zanadou (1043400) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @07:10PM (#47217853)

    As soon as you talk about how to get around the Great Firewall of China...

    ...that method suddenly stops working.

    (Somewhere in Beijing, a Zman adds "*.astrill.com" to the blocklist.)

    • by Cryacin (657549)

      (Somewhere in Beijing, a Zman adds "*.astrill.com" to the blocklist.)

      I wish someone over in the western hemisphere would add that rule.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense.

      Here is how you get around the "Great Firewall of China":

      ssh -D1234 some.server.outside.china.which.you.rented.com

      There, you're done. Yes, that really works, and if you're a tourist, the chances of really getting into trouble over that are, well, not huge. Some system will notice, somewhere - but you'll be gone after two to four weeks, anyways. It's not hard to get around the firewall - it is hard to get around it for a long time without showing up on the radar.

      The real, main reason why the Great F

    • 1. Demand democracy.
      2. Convince someone else to follow and on and do the same (including convincing someone else.)

      • Yeah, good luck, your lifespan is measured in days. If you are careful and lucky you can complain about SOME things, and people do let their opinions be known about GENERAL things "its very polluted here, this should be fixed!" or "food is too expensive!" etc. The government is pretty sensitive about public opinion up to a certain point. It is just always hard to tell if they will react to your complaints by fixing the problem, or killing you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it's like a work or school network that covers an entire country. "Few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them," is total crap. Many, many people know exactly what it's like. Plenty of people outside China have been fired, expelled, or jailed for getting around access controls. Kids today are spoiled brats who grow up with home Internet and no restrictions as long as mommy pays the Internet bill. They have no comprehension of what

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Plenty of people outside China have been fired, expelled, or jailed for getting around access controls.

      Getting expelled from not following some school's ToS is far different than living where the government is doing it to you at home, and you could be executed if caught.. Getting fired from a job, well its your own damned fault. ( sounds more like you are the spoiled brat here )

      Also, who has been jailed due to 'firewall' circumvention? ( other than perhaps some 3rd world country, as they dont count )

  • ...with the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests earlier this month â" an event the Chinese government wants no one to remember.

    It's nice to want things.

    Thing about it is, if China's ruling party could hold on to power without committing further abuses then time would probably actually be on their side for forgetting about Tiananmen. After all, my own country committed terrible atrocities throughout its existence and we simply look at those transgressions in a historical context, but

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by donscarletti (569232)

      limiting the amount of time that our leaders are in power (at least the President) and peacefully transitioning between those leaders makes it easier to let go. China doesn't have any of that going for them.

      I call bullshit. Jiang Zenmin: General secretary of CCP 1989 - 2002, PRC Chairman 1993 - 2003, Hu Jintao: General Secretary of CCP 2002 - 2012, PRC Chairman 2003 - 2013, Xi Jinping: General Secretary of CCP 2012 -, PRC Chairman 2013 - notice a pattern? Maximum of 2 terms for both positions, 5 years each. Jiang had an extra part term as General Secretary because his predecessor was deposed early. Premier is similar, maximum of 2 terms, 5 years each.

      The main difference is only the manner of the leader's choos

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I lived in China for 10 years. I don't like their censorship but I have to admit, they are very good at it. And they've developed something that the NSA can only wet dream about. I shudder to think how much computing power is used. They don't simply block content, they also modify it (text and images, particularly). For example, if you're looking at some standard western porn (white man fucking a white woman) they run image filters to shrink the penis size. There are some image artifacts but if you we

  • by ebonum (830686) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @07:27PM (#47217967)

    I live in China. Everyone I know hops the GFW with ease. It is a non-issue on laptops and cell phones.
    These guys have a storefront in Shanghai:
    http://vpninja.net/ [vpninja.net]
    You go to the store, you pay in Chinese currency and they give you a log in. It is fast and reliable.
    Lots of people I know use Astrill. (astrill.com)
    Of course anyone who is actually worried about security will set up their own server abroad and use putty or OpenVPN to access YouTube.

    • Agreed (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've spent some time in various parts of China. I simply set up 2 AWS micro instances running SQUID listening only on localhost and then ssh tunneled my laptop into them (I set up several ports for sshd to listen on just in case they blocked one or more). Had no problems. This has been known to work for quite some time reliably. Now and then you'd get a slowdown or your connections would drop, but overall it worked fine. Fire up your SSH client, use the -L option to tunnel a local port over to squid (and th

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Of course anyone who is actually worried about security will set up their own server abroad and use putty or OpenVPN to access YouTube.

      The last time I was there, OpenVPN connections were being blocked, while openvpn had worked perfectly 6 months earlier. In fact, on that trip, all attempts to run openvpn over UDP appeared to be blocked (I even tried port 53). I found that ssh (tcp/22) was not being blocked and used that. Later I found suggestions that playing with the MTU of the openvpn traffic would avo

      • by ebonum (830686)

        Yes. The blocking changes all the time, and it changes by location. Sites that work at the office might not work at home. Go to the areas that are closer to Xinjiang (the western parts with more Muslims), and it becomes very difficult to get over the GFW. PPTP works nearly 100% of the time. OpenVPN has more issues. It might work for 30 minutes then cut off, then work fine for a few days, then go off for a week.

  • ...few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls, or how to get around them...

    Well, there are the millions that visit China each year, and anyone who's ever bothered setting up a VPN connection so they could FaceTime with family or whatever.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @07:34PM (#47218009)

    "And we'll block any web site that says there is!"

  • I'm a chemistry teacher at a private school in Kunming, China. I use a VPN to get around. First of all half the battle is the terrible infrastructure here. I use a VPN to access everything I need to but I am constantly in a battle to stay connected with my 1Mb/s 500ping connection. If you don't have a VPN you are pretty crippled for most common sites like Google and social media. BTW Slashdot works fine without a VPN.
  • Some set up constant tunnels. Personally I use StrongVPN when not at my office or on office network, so it's sorta like this: Most of my internet use does not involve a proxy OR VPN, and is perfectly fine. When I need YouTube or Hulu or something, I open StrongVPN L2TP through San Fran. When I'm at work I'm typically going thru a proxy for common services we use like google services or whatever and need no configuration on whichever device I am using. My network connection at home is 20mbit fibre, typicall
  • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @11:43PM (#47219411) Journal

    few people outside the country know what it's like to live with those access controls

    It seems a strange sentiment to express, on a technical site.

    I've never been to China, and yet I know EXACTLY what their internet access is like. Anyone here can find out for themselves in 10 minutes flat, by hopping on a proxy located in China, and surfing around.

    The only extra bit of knowledge that I gained through my extensive time dealing with it, is how incredibly random, frequently changing, and therefore frustrating and utterly-pointless the IP bans are. Send enough traffic over an IPSec tunnel in a short enough period of time, and expect it to be suddenly blocked one day, only to work again in just a few days.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      Send enough traffic over an IPSec tunnel in a short enough period of time, and expect it to be suddenly blocked one day, only to work again in just a few days.

      This. It's totally arbitrary. Also it's a two-tier system, where many things are easily proxied around, while some sites (pornography, Falun Gong, Tian'anmen) can't be.

      I think mostly the point is to inconvenience and be protectionist rather than block. Sure you can get on twitter if you really want, but your average Joe in China doesn't want to bot

  • by PapayaSF (721268) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:11AM (#47220075) Journal

    Another way the Chinese evade censorship is to use oblique terms and references, many of which are quite funny. The Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon [chinadigitaltimes.net] is a compilation of them. (In Mandarin, "grass-mud horse" sounds very close to "fuck your mother" and is a way of evading and poking fun at censorship of vulgar content.)

    • Tried tested and failed. China constantly cracks down on new 'evasive' methods of communicating. This year they used tons of other phrases, and were promptly blocked, like "this day" or "may 35th" or "that day" or "spring to summer" or other various 'elusive' terms...blocked. In addition they tried to hide messages in porn. This is all part of the tit-for-tat that, well, often just ends in more and more blockage and nothing more.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm going to just say it now. China is stupid. Not the people of China really, but the government is pants-on-head retarded.

        They banned the phrase "May 35th". What about "April 65th", "March 96th", "February 124th", or "January 155th"? What about "July -26th" or "July 339th"?

        Sure, a good calendar will sort it out quickly, but which calendar? Gregorian? Julian? Hebrew? Are they going to ban "Sivan 1, 1989"? (Pentecost is on Sivan 6, which was June 9th that year.) What about every number between "612921600" a

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