Saturday, March 12, 2011

China Firewall Blocking Witopia or Witopia Fighting Back or...?

There may be a new development regarding the "Great Firewall" used by China to censor the Internet.

First, I need to provide some context.  I frequently make use of the virtual private network (VPN) service Witopia.  In short, it provides a way to surf the web more securely and anonymously.  In China it has the added benefit of "getting around" the Great Firewall -- the main reason I, like others, started using it.  Many foreign companies in China openly use strategies similar to Witopia's for their own internet needs and would not be able to operate efficiently otherwise.

Now the meat of the story...  While using Witopia in Vietnam tonight I noticed an interesting pattern.  It was working fine for web sites hosted in the US, Germany, Japan, etc.  However, I was not getting a response from any of the China-based web sites I attempted to visit despite not having had a problem earlier in the day.  The new problem was consistent whether I connected to Witopia's service through servers in the US or Singapore.

When I turned off Witopia I immediately had no problem accessing the sites in China.  I reconnected through Witopia and the problem returned.  The problem appeared to be specific to my use of Witopia for sites in China.  At this point I noticed a report of recent problems using Witopia in China which suggested that China is doing something that negatively impacts at least some of Witopia's services.  Now, I was intrigued...

So, based on the above I think it's worth suggesting a few possibilities I can think of that may account for what I experienced.
  • Maybe China wants to make all of Witopia's services less usable for getting around the Great Firewall or for accessing any site in China.
  • Maybe China doesn't want it to occur and it is an undesired (but possibly necessary) side effect of any other interference caused by China.
  • Maybe Witopia is retaliating against China - if you interfere with us we'll interfere with you.  It may seem peculiar they would do this without a public announcement but it could also be very savvy.  Often in China, publicly airing your disputes is not effective in resolving issues.
  • Maybe it is just an unintended technical glitch -- whether specific to me or broader.

This all raises a host of very interesting issues which I'd love to explore but...   I'll first do some more digging around and also see what things are like during the next day or two.  If nothing else, I want to see if this is a "stable" situation.

On the side, in the near future I will be returning to China.  If I am not able to use Witopia there then I am not sure whether I will be able to access my blog for posting as I normally do.

We'll see...

[Added note: Update here]


  1. Interesting. I am in Taiwan and trying to contact Witopia via online chat box, but I no longer see it (the one that comes up each time you go their page).
    I have been working with them to try and lock in a US IP while I am in Taiwan because something was causing the IP to move back out from US. I have used the chat window within the last two days, but this morning it is gone.

  2. If you do need a VPN service. I can help you. I can setup VPN with USA based server.

  3. Thanks Zarcher. All is OK for me now. Probably should do yet another update on this issue soon.