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Is It Legal to Use a VPN in China?

Justin Oyaro

By Justin Oyaro . 3 July 2024

Cybersecurity Expert

Miklos Zoltan

Fact-Checked this

Although China restricts VPN usage, it is still legal to use a VPN in the country. The ban primarily affects companies, which must use government-approved VPNs.

Local VPNs are also banned unless they are licensed by the government. Chinese citizens are restricted from using VPNs to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

However, tourists and foreigners can still use their VPNs if they can get through customs checks.

Continue reading to learn more about VPN usage in China!

Do You Need a VPN in China?

China is among the countries that censor what netizens can access on the internet. The state uses the Great Firewall to heavily restricts access to many websites.

The Great Firewall uses hard-to-beat techniques such as IP filtering, DNS spoofing and poisoning, and AI and manual censorship.

This Firewall blocks access to social media, messaging services, news sites, streaming platforms, search engines, information sites, cloud storage, collaboration tools, VPN sites, and anything the Chinese government sees fit to block.

In a nutshell, this nearly encompasses everything you do on the internet. You must use a VPN to regain your internet freedom and avoid surveillance.

The most effective VPNs are the ones not controlled by the Chinese government. Other tools are somewhat effective.

Will You Get Punished if Caught Using a VPN in China?

The punishment regarding VPN usage falls for companies that do not use government-approved VPNs or companies that don’t have relevant approvals from the state to use VPNs.

Chinese citizens in the VPN business can also face fines or jail time if they don’t have government clearance.

This clearance is meant to provide backdoors to the VPN and thus defeating the purpose of using a VPN.

The punishment regarding consumers is technicality. For Chinese consumers, there have been incidents where some got into trouble with a few fines.

As for foreigners, if found using a VPN, the authorities will go through your device, check all apps, and delete those deemed to violate the laws, including using foreign VPNs.

Sometimes, your device will be blocked from accessing the internet, calls, texts, and other connectivity functions until you delete the said apps.

Why is My VPN Not Working in China?

VPNs and the Great Firewall play a cat-and-mouse game. Sometimes the VPNs win, and at times the Firewall wins.

VPNs are always looking for new ways to bypass the Firewall. The Firewall is also updated regularly to block VPNs from accessing restricted content.

If your VPN stops working, it has probably been detected by the Great Firewall. Nonetheless, you can use a few tricks to get it working again.

Usually, you will need to jump between servers until you find the one that works. Premium VPNs recommend using their proprietary protocol since it is tuned to bypass censorship.

You can also update the VPN and consult with customer care. At times you will need to use another VPN.

How Do I Select the Best VPN for China?

Not all VPNs can bypass the Great Firewall of China. Some VPNs work for a short time, while others always deliver digital freedom while you are in China.

To get a VPN that can circumvent Chinese censorship, you will need a VPN that possesses some or all of the following aspects:

  • A proprietary protocol.
  • Ability to bypass the Great Firewall.
  • Double encryption.
  • Obfuscation and scrambling features.
  • Multiple protocols.
  • A vast server array.
  • Fast speeds.
  • Strict no-log policy.
  • Around-the-clock customer care.

At the moment, there are a few VPNs that have proven to work in China. Their uptime in China is higher than the downtime.

These VPNs include ExpressVPN, Surshark, NordVPN, and Private VPN. To use these VPNs in China, you must first install them before departing to China.

Their websites are blocked in China, and they are not available in the Chinese App stores. Also, hide them in case the customs officials decide to go through your devices.


Using a VPN in China is technically legal, but the situation is complex due to government restrictions. VPNs operating within China must obtain government approval, and those without such approval are subject to bans.

The enforcement of these regulations can vary. Chinese citizens may face repercussions for using non-approved VPNs, while foreigners might not face penalties under similar circumstances.

However, the legal landscape can be unpredictable, so it’s important to stay informed about current regulations and practices.

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