Chinese Programmer Has 3 Years Of Income Confiscated For Using VPN

Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross Senior Writer
Tyler Cross Tyler Cross Senior Writer

A Chinese programmer was recently fined over 1 million yuan over the use of a VPN.

The programmer, whose surname is Ma, received a penalty notice on Aug. 18, claiming that he was using unauthorized channels to connect to international networks.

However, Ma wasn’t using the VPN for illegal activities — he worked for an overseas Turkish company and claimed he only used the VPN to connect to Zoom calls. Upon learning he worked for an overseas company, the Chinese government confiscated his phone, laptop, and computer hard drives for analysis.

After confiscating his gear, they proceeded to ask him for information about his job, employment details, and banking information. In the end, they slapped him with a severe fine.

Ma then learned that the fine was the entirety of his income earned between September 2019 and November 2022, when he worked for the Turkish company.

This marks the most aggressive fine levied at someone for using a VPN in China.

To make matters worse, VPN usage isn’t technically illegal in China. The VPN must be government-approved, so most VPN companies won’t operate in China, but using a VPN for international communication is commonplace in the country.

He explained that the authorities had first contacted him over a year ago, investigating a Twitter account that they believed he ran.

“I stated that I was currently working for an overseas company, and my personal Twitter only occasionally liked and retweeted the company’s tweets,” Ma said in a now-deleted post.

This also speaks to a larger problem going on — the revenue being generated from forfeitures is skyrocketing in municipalities that struggle to keep up with China’s growing debt payments. Rumors are rapidly spreading online about authorities focusing on profits, rather than upholding the law.

The story is still ongoing, as Ma is in contact with lawyers to fight against the decision.

About the Author
Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross
Senior Writer

About the Author

Tyler is a writer at SafetyDetectives with a passion for researching all things tech and cybersecurity. Prior to joining the SafetyDetectives team, he worked with cybersecurity products hands-on for more than five years, including password managers, antiviruses, and VPNs and learned everything about their use cases and function. When he isn't working as a "SafetyDetective", he enjoys studying history, researching investment opportunities, writing novels, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends."

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