For many years, people have seen Hong Kong as an entity separate from the Chinese mainland. There is good reason for this as even the laws that govern Hong Kong are far more relaxed and very different from what most Chinese citizens live under.
In fact, there is a Hong Kong Bill of Rights that grants residents much more freedom of expression and access than those in mainland China. There hasn’t been much in the way of Internet censorship in Hong Kong, beyond laws that prohibit the sharing and distribution of copyrighted material.
Many people are well aware of what is often dubbed the Great Firewall of China, but until very recently, residents of Hong Kong have been spared much of the frustration, blocks, and lack of access their mainland counterparts must endure.
In recent years, particularly under the leadership of Xi Jinping, efforts to increase control over the internet access and data usage of residents of Hong Kong has started to raise concerns.
Due to this tightening of access, many residents and visitors in Hong Kong are taking advantage of the security and privacy that a virtual private network, or VPN, provides.
What follows are five of the best reasons to use a VPN in Hong Kong when surfing the web, sharing private data, and using your favorite apps while in Hong Kong.
- Certain sites are inaccessible or hard to access in Hong Kong: Certain sites are inaccessible or hard to access in Hong Kong: While internet censorship in Hong Kong is far less restrictive than it is in mainland China, residents and visitors do report trouble with visiting some popular sites, particularly streaming sites like Netflix, Pandora, and other types of streaming media apps. This is not due to any direct blocks to Hong Kong itself, but that these services stream via geographic regions. Using a VPN as a workaround, you can access the US or UK versions of these streaming services and maintain access to your favorite shows and music.
- Block of Google expands to Hong Kong: In recent years, there has been an increase in general restrictions on Internet usage for Chinese citizens and this has been particularly salient with mechanisms that block access to international news and media sites, as well as the popular search engine Google, and all its subsidiary services. Many of us rely extensively on Google and its related services and the ban on Google in China does, unfortunately, extend to Hong Kong as well. While they have sophisticated and strict firewalls in place, a solid VPN will help you get around this block.
- WhatsApp and Other Blocks: The Chinese government recently successfully obtained the legal authority to block the popular messaging app, WhatsApp, from use with its Great Firewall. While this does not directly affect the residents of Hong Kong, it has created delays, caused slow or poor connections, and has made communication with the mainland incredibly difficult. VPNs hide your actual IP address, and mask it with another from a chosen unblocked country, allowing you to use the service with ease.
- Data and Internet Usage Monitoring: Even when in Hong Kong, it is helpful to remember that you are in China. This is a restrictive country that has a history of censorship, surveillance, and monitoring. Many people feel better retaining their privacy when using their devices while in Hong Kong, just to ensure peace of mind that their browsing is not being tracked and their sensitive personal information is not being compromised.
- Safety and Security on State and Public Networks: No matter where you are, there are risks to using public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Using these networks leaves your personal data vulnerable, makes you easier to track, and can leave you open to hacking and other nefarious activities. In a country that is known for monitoring its citizens and visitors, using an unsecured network with no protection is even riskier. Ensuring that you always use a private VPN while browsing the web and using your favorite apps ensures that you can go about your business in safety and with peace of mind.
Beyond getting around basic censorship and surveillance issues that you may encounter when using the internet in Hong Kong, using a VPN for all your browsing and Internet needs makes sense for many other reasons too.
You will be able to maintain access to your favorite streaming media sites, get passed firewalls and blockers, and ensure that all your private data, browsing history, and app usage remain safe and secure.