By Epoch Times Staff
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) passed the national security law for Hong Kong on May 24, causing panic among the people of Hong Kong. Over the weekend, Google’s hot search keywords in Hong Kong and the number of VPN downloads in Hong Kong increased by 120 times on May 21 – the day the new national security law was first announced, compared to the day before.
This was revealed by NordVPN, a virtual private network (VPN) provider. A NordVPN spokesman said that in response to emergencies, new servers have been urgently installed in Taiwan.
VPN provider Surfshark also said that after the CCP officially released the statement on the national security law, sales in Hong Kong suddenly increased sharply, and sales in just one hour were equivalent to that of the past week.
Surfshark cybersecurity consultant Naomi Hodges said, “We have seen an astonishing increase in Hong Kong users. Obviously Hong Kong people have felt that their security is directly threatened.
According to Ray Walsh, an expert at ProPrivacy VPN, a digital privacy advocacy group, the CCP made use of the pandemic to strengthen its control over Hong Kong. The people of Hong Kong are worried about contact with the outside world, so they have searched for VPN services.
Hongkongers Need VPNs Due to Crackdown
The last time VPNs experienced a huge increase in downloads in Hong Kong was in October 2019.
At that time, due to the CCP’s strong push of the extradition bill, the protests in Hong Kong lasted for 17 weeks. At the same time, on October 1, the day of the CCP’s National Day military parade, the Hong Kong police opened fire on protesters.
According to Hong Kong police data, a total of 269 people were arrested on that day and the police fired at the protestors with six shots. At least 104 people were admitted to the hospital that night. Several were in critical condition, of which, the youngest was just 11.
The following day, the protesters convened at the 17th Private Press Conference, condemning the police’s shooting and killing people, and expressed their determination to fight for freedom. At the same time, students went on strike in solidarity with their classmates who were shot, arrested, or killed.
The Epoch Times reported that the Hong Kong police made up to 5,325 requests for technology companies to hand over user information – an increase of 1,000 times compared to the first half of last year, including the request for Facebook to hand over the IP address and information of Hong Kong Demosisto’s member Zhou Ting.
VPNs Allow Hongkongers to Break Through China’s Firewall
VPN services allow users to access any website through the virtual server, allowing the user to set the area to lift restrictions and also hide the user’s real IP location, encrypt the user’s transmitted data, and protect the user from being tracked by any organization or government, thus not leaving any records on the server.
Many mainland Chinese have broken through the CCP’s firewall through VPNs.
Some network experts have reminded the people of Hong Kong that they should always learn to use new encryption software to prevent any unnecessary trouble. They may also consider deleting chat records and leaving groups.
Last year, VPNPro, an information security research organization, released a survey report showing that 97 major VPN providers in the world are being controlled by 23 parent companies, but 6 out of the 23 are Chinese companies with control of 29 of these VPN providers.
A person in Shenzhen who once participated in the local VPN operation revealed that Chinese companies started to establish or acquire overseas VPN companies on their own since around 2015. After these VPN companies were incorporated into the Chinese company, although they continue to charge for operations, it is more difficult for users to break through the firewall.
According to the survey report, the purpose of the CCP’s expansion of VPN companies is to make it more difficult for users to break through the firewall, and at the same time collect and analyze the types, contents and duration of users’ browsing behaviour, connect users’ identities, establish VPN user big data and strengthen monitoring.
In the past few years, the CCP has been vigorously blocking VPN softwares. In 2017, more than 60 VPN apps were removed from Apple’s online stores in China. In 2019, one of China’s first-of-its-kind web browsers which allowed users to break through the firewall, Kuniao, shut down two days after its launch.
Among the VPNs developed, Freegate and Unbounded Networks are some of the most effective software for breaking through the firewall. Even until now, the technology has been constantly upgraded and new versions are being introduced from time to time, especially during CCP’s important meetings, sensitive memorial days or special events by the CCP.
For example, during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong, Chinese netizens said that through Freegate, they could watch live broadcasts of Hong Kong protesters by The Epoch Times and NTDTV.
Over the past few days, in addition to the keyword “VPN”, Google search volume in Hong Kong has increased tremendously, where “immigration” and “Taiwan” have become some of the hottest search keywords.