Around 9:30 PM Friday, July 20th, a number of popular VPN services suffered simultaneous network interruptions in China. Normal web traffic to some unblocked websites outside of China was also throttled and suffered performance issues. Netizens also reported the BBC recently became blocked (again).
ExpressVPN, one of the most used VPNs in China, was blocked for approximately two hours for most users before service was restored. VyprVPN and NordVPN, other popular VPN used by residents in China, also suffered partial or complete connection outages.
Whether this flash VPN crackdown is the start of more restrictions to come is unknown. It is possible the brief blocking was done as a test or upgrade of the Great Firewall filter.
VPN apps are used in China to circumvent the strict internet censorship that blocks the use of websites and apps such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Regulators in China have been increasing restrictions on VPNs in the past year with threats of VPN bans, forcing Apple to remove VPN apps from the app store, and jailing Chinese VPN vendors.