Chinese netizens have a reputation for dodging Chinese censors through wordplay. Through clever homonyms and code words, such as “check the water meter” (抄水表), Chinese internet users are able to discuss police brutality, protests, corruption, and other sensitive topics without getting caught by Chinese censors, also known as the Great Firewall (GFW).

Of course, the Great Firewall isn’t just sensitive to political commentary – it blocks thousands of websites, including Google’s search engine, news articles, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. For many companies in China, circumventing the Great Firewall is necessary to stay productive. Virtual private networks (VPNs), which are offered by both foreign and domestic companies, are a popular way to get around the GFW.

However, for VPN providers that cater to customers in China, day-to-day business can involve dealing with crackdowns from the Chinese government, which employs a variety of tactics to take down VPN connections. That game of cat-and-mouse is a lot more difficult for Chinese VPN providers, as they can be physically shut down by law enforcement and government officials.

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Eva Xiao

Eva Xiao is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. Contact her at eva.xiao@technode.com or evawxiao (wechat & twitter).