How to Circumvent the Great Firewall in China
VPN recommendations for Mainland China
A client needs to circumvent the Great Firewall (GFW), either because they live, or are travelling to, Mainland China, but:
- VPN servers are frequently blocked in Mainland China.
- There is evidence that the Great Firewall has the ability to actively probe and block VPN traffic.
- Some VPN providers do not respect users’ privacy.
- Tor is blocked in Mainland China.
The solution we propose to the client will depend on what they need.
If the user is just interested in circumvention, they can use a VPN.
Sometimes some of these tools will work in some regions or circumstances and not in others, and some of them may be blocked at the ISP level. The best strategy is to set up several VPNs before the client travels to China so that they have more than one option in case one doesn’t work.
A good resource to identify available and functional VPN services in China is GreatFire.
Another resource is GFW Report which analyses how the GFW identifies Shadowsocks-based VPN servers and provides guidance to avoid detection for servers and users.
The client should install Tor Browser before they travel, since the Tor Project website is blocked in China. They can also use the GetTor service, which will email them download links.
In China direct connections to the Tor network are blocked. To circumvent the Great Firewall, it is necessary to use a Tor bridge. A how-to for using Tor bridges in China can be found here.
Sometimes, the built-in bridges in Tor Browser and the email service through firstname.lastname@example.org don’t work for users in China. However, private bridges will usually still work. Instructions on how to use a private bridge can be found here. If a client needs further help getting a private bridge address, they can contact the Tor Project by emailing their support team at email@example.com.
- FAQ on circumventing censorship using Tor Browser
- Information on circumvention and pluggable transports
- How to add bridges in Tor Browser
- Article on what to do when Tor is blocked in a country (published August 3rd, 2016)
- Another Tor Project guide on how to setup bridges
- A community-maintained guide to using bridges and setting up a bridge relay
Other apps with pluggable transports