The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has denied recent reports claiming that it plans to prevent internet users from accessing virtual private networks (VPNs).
VPNs are a tool used to circumvent internet restrictions and access overseas sites banned in the country, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Citing anonymous sources, a Monday Bloomberg report claimed that the MIIT ordered three prominent network carriers – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – to block individuals’ access to all VPNs by February 1, 2018.
“Our subordinate departments have not issued any relevant notices,” the MIIT told Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper on Wednesday.
“Recent overseas media reports are not true,” it added, without making specific reference to Bloomberg.
VPNs allow Chinese internet users to access overseas websites that are blocked domestically by redirecting them through an artificially-created overseas network. But in January, the MIIT announced a crackdown on VPN use, banning telecommunications and internet service providers from setting up VPN services without government approval.
The ministry told Bloomberg in a statement after its report was published that the notice issued in January targets unauthorised access and should not affect the normal operations of local and foreign businesses or users in general.
Some domestic VPN providers, such as GreenVPN, have disappeared from app stores in the months since.
Currently, multinational companies and foreign trade businesses are allowed to use VPN services provided by approved telecommunications operators. “The relevant regulations in [January’s] notice will not impact their daily operations,” the MIIT told The Paper on Wednesday.