Hong Kong has certain political and economic freedoms from China thanks to its status as a former British colony.
In recent years, there have been growing concerns for Hong Kong’s autonomy as Bejing, China’s capital, continues to exert its control and influence over Hong Kong citizens. Bejing’s efforts to alter the city’s political system sparked massive protests in 2019, which still continue today.
People living in Hong Kong are now becoming more familiar with the idea that the freedom they’ve always known could soon be restricted. These restrictions apply to the internet too.
On Thursday 21st May 2020, Bejing proposed tough new security laws for Hong Kong, which could lead to the Government restricting access to certain parts of the internet, similar to the online restrictions in India.
Amidst these concerns, demand for VPNs is growing massively. Interest in the keyword term ‘VPN’ was up 1,680% on 21st May compared to the day before. So what is it about VPNs that has people in Hong Kong so interested?
Why VPNs Are Needed in Hong Kong
At the time of writing, people living in Hong Kong are able to enjoy unrestricted access to the internet. In China, the government blocks virtually all western website content, as well as platforms such as Facebook and Google.
The Chinese Government monitors individuals’ internet access, allowing them to see which websites they’re visiting, how long they’re spending there, and their location.
In order to get around these restrictions, many people in China use VPNs when they connect to the internet. Some VPNs are blocked in China, but there are many that still work in the country.
By connecting their devices to a VPN, Chinese citizens are able to enjoy open and unrestricted internet without being spied on by the government. If Hong Kong falls under the same digital restrictions as Chinese citizens, then people living there will have to use a VPN in order to browse the internet without any restrictions.
How do VPNs Work?
When you connect to the internet normally, your device’s connection is routed through your internet service provider (ISP). This means your ISP can see where you’ve connected to the internet from, and determines what kind of content on the internet you can access.
However, when you connect your device to a VPN, your connection is routed through to one of the VPN’s many private servers, rather than your ISP’s. This creates a secure, encrypted tunnel where the information you’re transferring is not publicly visible to others.
Benefits of a VPN
With your internet traffic routed through an encrypted tunnel, VPN users are able to enjoy lots of benefits.
1. Browse the internet with no restrictions
If you live in a country where access to certain websites is blocked, you can use a VPN to visit those websites. All you’ll need to do is make sure your private server is located in a country that enjoys unrestricted internet access.
2. Bypass Geoblocked content
Have you ever read something exciting about the release of a new TV show, film, or movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime, only to discover that it’s not available in your country?
Many streaming and video game companies restrict access to their content depending on which country you’re from. This is usually down to the licensing agreements they secure for the content, which will determine where that content is allowed to be shown.
Thankfully, you can bypass geoblocks by using a VPN. If you want to watch the latest TV shows and films on UK Netflix, for example, just connect to a UK server using your VPN.
3. Greater Online Security
When you’re connected to a VPN, all of the information you’re transferring is encrypted. This means if it ever fell into the hands of hackers or criminals, it wouldn’t be much use to them.
As well as encrypting your information, VPNs also offer enhanced security features such as anti-virus software that can block malware, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch, that will instantly kill your internet if your connection to your VPN suddenly fails.
4. Escape Bandwidth-Throttling
Your ISP ultimately determines how much bandwidth it wants you to use. If it looks like you’re using too much, or if their services are slowing down at peak times, it’ll throttle your connection, making it much slower.
Using a VPN allows you to escape bandwidth throttling as your connection is to a private VPN server and not your ISP.
Potentially, it could only be a matter of time until Hong Kong finds itself placed under the same restrictions as China. If and when that does happen, it’s inevitable that these people will turn to VPNs to ensure they’re still able to use the internet the way it was intended.