Look Ma! I can see through the great firewall!

Today we have decided to take the battle against online censorship in China to a new level.

On Friday, November 15, we broke the news that the websites for Reuters Chinese and Chinese Wall Street Journal were both blocked in China. Tests on our servers confirmed those blocks. 

It appears that the block is related to the New York Times story published on November 14 concerning the relationship between JPMorgan Chase and Lily Chang (also known as Wen Ruchun), the daughter of former Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao.

Reuters Chinese published news about the story on November 14, which is probably the reason the site was blocked.

In response to this block, we have just launched a mirror site for Reuters China, which is accessible here:


This website is accessible from within China without the use of any circumvention tools. 

PLEASE NOTE: We have created this mirror website without seeking the approval of Reuters ahead of time. This mirror website was created without Reuters’ knowledge. If Reuters ask us to remove this website, we will do so immediately.

We have already used this method or mirroring for our own blocked website, FreeWeibo.com:


FreeWeibo shows weibo content that has been blocked by Sina and the Chinese government. Our official domain has long been blocked in China. Despite the block, we still have more than 15,000 visitors each day, a majority of which are using Internet circumvention software to get around the great firewall (GFW) of China.

We want to provide internet users in China with unrestricted information access. Internet circumvention software is for the most part stable in China but one needs to have some technical savvy for configuration.

With our new mirror sites, the GFW cannot block FreeWeibo.com any longer without causing significant collateral damage which would also cause significant economic fallout in China.

Our mirror sites are unique because rather than using our own domains, we use a subpath of Amazon and Google’s domains which support HTTPS access. This means that GFW cannot block our mirror websites without blocking the domain of Amazon or Google entirely, namely “s3.amazonaws.com” and “commondatastorage.googleapis.com”.

GFW might indeed go ahead and block these domains but it would risk considerable negative backlash and may cause problems economically for organizations within China that rely on these services. In January 2013, China blocked Github supposedly for having sensitive content. But the block created a fierce outcry in the Chinese developer community. Subsequently, the authorities backed down and stopped blocking the domain.

Our mirror site is not perfect! There are a few minor bugs in what we have created. However, we wanted to quickly put this together so that we could fire a shot across the bow of the Chinese censorship mothership.

The reason why we chose to mirror the Reuters Chinese web site was to show the authorities and Chinese internet users that there are holes in the great firewall. To plug this hole, the Chinese authorities have two options. They can block the Amazon and Google domains, thereby bringing down thousands of websites in China that rely on these web services. This will bring the issue of online censorship to a very large group of people in China. The other option is to force Amazon or Google to remove our sites willingly.  We have previously reported that Apple willingly remove OpenDoor, an Internet circumvention tool, from the China App store and this week there were reports about self-censorship at Bloomberg.  We hope Amazon or Google will not practice the same kind of self-censorship.

There is a third option. Mr. Xi Jinping, we hope you are listening. Just let this episode slide. Pretend it did not happen. Do nothing to stop this. Or, better yet, lift the block on these two websites and the hundreds of others. Do it in one swift movement. You will catch everybody off guard. And you will create your own lasting legacy as a true reformer.

We have participated in OpenITP’s report “Collateral Freedom: A Snapshot of Chinese Users Circumventing Censorship” and we fully agree with their conclusion:

The essence of the Internet freedom debate in China is segmentation, not blocking. When crucial business activity is inseparable from Internet freedom, the prospects for Internet freedom improve.


But, we would argue, a healthier response might move in the opposite direction, toward even greater integration between Internet freedom and business. Rather than working with particular online platforms, which may be individually vulnerable to censorship, the best long term answer might be to move anti-censorship deeper into the network infrastructure, incorporating it within the systems that large network operators use to exchange their traffic. Ideally, we might aim for a situation in which secure web access generally (rather than access to any particular platform) is inseparable from Internet freedom.





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Tue, Jul 05, 2016

GreatFire.org now testing VPN speed and stability in China

There is a commonly held belief in China that if you have a VPN that works then you should keep quiet about it. In terms of freedom of access to information, the problem with this approach is that access to knowledge suddenly is a secret. Today we are launching a project that we hope will destroy that model.

Our newest website, Circumvention Central (CC), aims to provide real-time information and data about circumvention solutions that work in China. Since 2011, we have been collecting data about blocked websites in China and now we will add data about the effectiveness of VPNs and other circumvention tools.

We are launching CC with four main objectives in mind.

Our first objective is to help to grow the number of Chinese who circumvent censorship restrictions in China. By sharing our information and data about these tools, we hope to show a wider audience which circumvention tools are working.

Our second objective is to improve the circumvention experience for users in China by bringing transparency to tool performance. We will measure these tools on speed (how quickly popular websites are loaded) and on stability (the extent to which popular websites load successfully).

Sat, May 07, 2016

The New York Times vs. The Chinese Authorities

Could the New York Times be setting the best path forward for news organizations in China?

Thu, Feb 18, 2016

From the desk of Lu Wei: Apple, encryption and China

Lu Wei, Director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, offers some friendly help to FBI Director James Comey.

Thu, Sep 24, 2015

Apple blocked CNNIC CA months after MITM attacks

In March of this year, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The root certificate authority for these domains was the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). CNNIC was controlled by the Chinese government through the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and is now under the management of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). CNNIC was recognized by all major browsers as a trusted Certificate Authority. If CNNIC signs a fake certificate used in a man-in-the-middle attack, no browser will warn of any unusual activity unless the certificate is pinned.

After Google found these unauthorized certificates, both Google and Firefox revoked its trust in CNNIC a few days later, a development we at GreatFire.org have adovacting for since 2013. Apple and Microsoft on the other hand, did not revoke their trust in CNNIC, nor did they make any announcements regarding the security compromise.

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

Malicious Xcode could spread via download manager Xunlei

What’s at stake?

We reported last week that popular Chinese iOS apps were compromised in an unprecedented malware attack. We discovered that the source of the infection was compromised copies of Xcode hosted on Baidu Pan. Apple has published an article urging developers to download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website and validate signatures. We’ve now discovered that even if a developer uses a download link seemingly from Apple, he might still be possible to obtain a compromised copy of Xcode.

Please note that we do not have evidence that such attacks has happened. But it is an easy attack that anyone can implement.

How does it work?

This compromise happened because of Xunlei. Xunlei is the most popular download manager in China. Much of its popularity is due to the fact they can accelerate download speeds by pulling resources from other Xunlei users as well as cached copies on the Xunlei server. All of this, however, is invisible to users. Users can simply enter a regular http download address into Xunlei  download manager and the download will start. Chinese developers were using direct download addresses such as http://adcdownload.apple.com/Developer_Tools/Xcode_7/Xcode_7.dmg to download Xcode.

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Significant economic fallout ? Wow, who told you that? Given the current circumstances, any one who cares about reliability in mainland china will choose not to use AWS or GCS, for the exact reason of not taking the risk that these will be blocked.
I think what you are doing is not helping but instead another reason for GFW to block these services. Google and Amazon would suffer more.

You can also make a downloadable offline mirror version of any website. I don't think GFW can really monitor what you have on your computer!

do you mind to share how do u mirrors the websites using amazon/google?
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