You've likely got a VPN App (or two) on your phone to help visit inaccessible websites in China like Facebook and Instagram. But starting next month, they might be impossible to use.
According to rumors circulating online this week, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) will be completely removed from Apple and Android's Chinese app markets by July 1, 2017.
The rumors started swirling on social media recently after popular VPN provider Green announced that it would cease operations on July 1. A post on Green's website said that the company had received "notice from the higher authorities," which indicates the shutdown is mandatory.
Netizens have noted that several other VPN services, including Netfits, VPN Master Pro, Ponhon, Snap VPN and SkyX have disappeared from the app stores in recent months.
If the rumors are indeed true, then this is just the latest in a string of measures indicating a wider crackdown on VPN usage throughout the country.
Back in January, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) launched a series of rules aimed at regulating the Internet access services sector and cracking down on 'illegal' or 'unlicensed' business activity. Among the regulations is one which prevents domestic telecom companies and Internet service providers from setting up special lines such as VPNs without prior government approval.
And in March, Chongqing authorities announced strict rules stipulating that individual users and companies could be fined up to RMB15,000 if they were caught using a VPN. Some speculated that similar measures could soon be rolled out across the rest of the country.