Paid virtual private networks (VPNs) are quietly catching on in China as a way to access forbidden websites, analysts say, while authorities are leaving them alone until they become more popular.
VPNs designed for secure Internet use in offices have spread over the past half year among expatriates and tech-savvy Chinese since the popular social networking website Facebook was blocked.
Twitter and YouTube are also blocked in China, which uses a filtering "firewall" to block Internet users from overseas website content that challenges the Communist Party.
The rise of VPNs comes as China defends its curbs on the Internet after the world’s biggest search engine provider, Google Inc., threatened to shut down its Chinese Google.cn site over censorship and a severe hacking attack.
"So long as the VPN is outside of mainland China, it should not be a problem," said Danny Levinson, publisher of ChinaTechNews.com. "We use our own VPN and it works fine."