Well, its been an interesting week here in the PRC. Just before I was to publish the following post, I lost my internet ‘lifeline’ – my VPN, or Virtual Private Network, a little downloaded device that allows my laptop to pretend that it lives in any one of 80 exciting locations outside China (Washington! New York! London!), and therefore can access all the sites the rest of the world enjoys freely, including blogger. But suddenly the lifeline went dead, as I frantically tried all of their far-flung ports (Rio! Helsinki! Phoenix Arizona!) in the hope that the internet hacks at Communist Party HQ would be less interested in blocking them. No luck. All 80 ports blocked, and to add insult to injury Gmail went down too. For days five days I’ve lived in a bubble of frustration, unable to access this blog, my emails, the English language news, or anything much else.
Periodically we experience internet crackdowns like this one, usually before any major event or public holiday – the October National Holiday is a predictable annual nightmare as the internet slows to a crawl and various sites pop on and off, and prior to the Olympics and Expo many more sites were blocked. There is usually some way around it if you know where to look, but this time I couldn’t find a way out. The Great Firewall had me trapped. And the reason why? Everyone is assuming the heightening conflict in Libya is the cause, but really, we don’t know. There could be another Uighur uprising in Western China, for example, but no whisper of it has reached Shanghai. If you hear anything, would you let me know??
Walking the streets of Shanghai you could rightly assume, as you stroll past The Apple Store, GAP, Lacoste, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Tiffany, that you are living in the largest free market in the world. It’s only when certain freedoms are curtailed that you remember you are at the beck and call of the CCP, and if it suits them they can be really, really annoying.
I finally found an alternate VPN, and it’s now up and running thanks to their clever tech support staff working remotely from who knows where to load it onto my computer. I just can’t give you the name of the company, because those hacks will get wind of where to stir up trouble next. Wonder how long this one will last?