In China? Get a VPN.

Do you miss Internet freedom?

Living in Shanghai, or anywhere in Mainland China, means access is denied for Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Blogspot, and all the other sites blocked by Great Firewall of China (GFW).

Foreigners scattered everywhere in China share the same frustration. Some live with the ridiculous censors, some work around it with unreliably free solutions that only get added to the blocked list, while others pay a hefty price for VPNs. If you dabble with social media to any extent, you’d really want to get around the GFW with a VPN. (Professional) Social media junkie? A paid VPN is a must-have!

Free VPNs/Proxies

There are free VPNs like Hotspot Shield and Freedur but they are at risk of being, or already have been, blocked by the GFW. Same case with proxies like (which still works for now). You can use it for browsing blocked sites, but using it for sites that require your login information is highly unadvisable because these free solutions are very unsafe. Your passwords may very well be stolen when you use such proxies. Moreover, annoying ads keep popping up either on your current page or on a new browser window.

Paid VPNs

So far, the more popular VPNs used in China by foreigners are Witopia and new solution 12VPN. Some paid VPNs might not be able to grant you access to Twitter and Facebook, but both Witopia and 12VPN have no such issue. Access Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube in China with 12VPN. The connection is fast, usage is stable and it gets you a US/UK IP address.

Even if you aren’t in a country that restricts Internet freedom, a VPN should be considered to give you that extra layer of protection when you need to do secure transactions or surf anonymously (useful in the office where they try to log your Internet activity).



12VPN used to only cost $2.95/month for their Lite plan, and customers who bought it during that time can renew it at that price. However, after there was a series of clamp downs on VPNs, 12VPN has had no choice but to increase its pricing to $79/year for a US Personal plan, and $119 for a World Personal plan. These prices are still very competitive and it pays to have internet freedom and secure surfing.


12VPN’s tech support is impressive. Their replies are prompt and the support team provides friendly and apt help. They even offer background information of the problem to enable the layman to understand. A solution company should always make tech support priority, and 12VPN’s professional assistance is a role model. The tech support team even has a great sense of humour, you’ll see.


12VPN has the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN
  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • Cisco/Shrew

And is compatible with the following platforms:

  • Android
  • iPhone
  • iPod Touch
  • Linux Command-Line and Ubuntu
  • Mac OS/X 10.5 and above
  • Windows XP, 2000, 2003, Vista, 7

Get 12VPN at 5% off

12VPN offers a 7-day money back guarantee, so you can try it first before committing, in a way. For a limited period, the guys at 12VPN has offered readers a 5% discount. Simply enter the promo code SHANGHAIHALFPAT during sign-up to qualify.

VPN in China

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  1. Susan - 11 January 2010

    Hey, thanks for sharing this info. I’ve been using Witopia for 2 years and was quite pleased with it, but I can’t watch videos on Hulu anymore. Hulu is blocking out as many anonymous proxies as they can detect. :(

    Anyway, when I renewed my Witopia subscription several weeks ago, I got only the SSL option, but later bought an iPhone which cannot use SSL. I should have paid for the SSL+PPTP combo option for just $10 more, but was too late. PPTP alone is another $40… so anyway, I just subscribed to 12VPN lite version for $28 so I can use VPN on my iPhone.

    I’ll have to see if 12VPN works with Hulu later when I get home.

  2. shanghaihalfpat - 12 January 2010

    Hey Susan,

    12VPN is a good choice, and have you tried using it on your iPhone? I’m contemplating whether to get an iPhone, and I’d love to use it with 12VPN. Did you buy your iPhone from China or overseas? I believe China sells the non wifi version is that right?

    I believe Hulu works with 12VPN. Do let me know. :)

    Congrats on getting (back) internet freedom!

  3. Jesse - 12 January 2010

    Hi Susan,

    I watch Hulu and BBC all the time on Witopia. You should write them. Their support tends to be very good. They hooked me up.

    I appreciate info on all new providers but, for me, i like the fact witopia is unlimited access and not limiting bandwidth like 12vpn and many others. Those data transfer plans always make me concerned either the carrier doesn’t have enough capacity to really handle the traffic or they want to charge you overage or something. My 3 cents.

  4. Susan - 12 January 2010

    I got 12VPN to work on my iPhone and laptop. Hulu works too! I like it that 12VPN includes all the different VPN options (OpenVPN, Cisco, PPTP, etc..) whereas with Witopia, you choose which option you want (with price differences).

    12VPN lite plan is cheaper than Witopia if you don’t plan to use more than 10GB of data. Since I already have Witopia (unlimited data), I didn’t care. I just want to be able to access blocked content on my iPhone. By the way, I bought my iPhone in the U.S. and unlocked it to work with China Mobile.

    With Witopia, I like that I can access different servers from around the world (US, HK, UK). HK connection is much faster than US connection, so if I want to access Facebook/Twitter, I use the faster connection. If I want to watch shows on Netflix and ABC/NBC/CBS, then I use the US connection.

  5. shanghaihalfpat - 12 January 2010

    Hi Jesse and Susan,

    Thanks for your comments. It’s good that we learn more about the VPNs that work for us. Or we learn more about what works for us by learning/comparing what the different VPNs have to offer.

    I connect to 12VPN only when I want to access Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. Or else I disconnect from it, especially if I want to access Chinese sites like youku, tudou, music. I think 10GB is therefore more than enough for me, but I did read on 12VPN’s support that they can temporarily lift the limit that month should I require it.

    I don’t think setting a bandwidth limit insinuates that the service provider doesn’t have the capacity to handle it but more of offering tiered plans that lets people who are more price sensitive (me) have a go at internet freedom in the land that restricts it. While unlimited bandwidth sounds appealing, it’s probably the provider’s marketing strategy — overselling.

    Susan, glad to know you’re finding 12VPN great for your needs (iPhone, Hulu, etc). By the way, you can also choose servers from the US and UK with 12VPN, though I don’t think they offer HK, which I can imagine to be faster than US connection, like you said. Nevertheless, I’m finding 12VPN’s connection fast, far from the crawling speed of the likes of Hotspot Shield, but alas they shouldn’t be compared at all.

  6. Scaling the Great Firewall of China | Shanghai Tech Writer - 19 January 2010

    […] combo option. I needed to pay $40 for the PPTP connection! Then I read on Shanghai Halfpat about 12VPN and saw that the 12VPN lite plan (10GB/month data limit) costs $25/month and it includes SSL, […]

  7. hayley - 22 January 2010

    Shame, i got to the payment on my paypal but 12vpn require instant payments per year and want me to link up to a visa card which i dont have and im not planning to stay here all year! I just wanted to do a one time payment, and use the funds from my paypal account.

    Anyone know of another vpn i can try? And not witopia ive heard bad things. Tried SecureVPN and their support is awful. Apparently my money is valid but my reference number is not so i got nothing after i bought from them *stay clear of securevpn!!*

  8. Susan Wu - 22 January 2010

    When I subscribed to 12VPN, I paid via Paypal (credit card option) and I noticed that I was automatically subscribed to the annual renewal payment. I was not happy about that since I don’t like charges to sneak up on me, but I was able to cancel the automatic annual renewal/subscription by deleting it from my Papal account.

    By the way, the 12VPN lite plan is now $25 without any discount code. The price went down just a few days after I subscribed to it!! :(

    On another note, I read on ChinaHush today that there’s a free proxy service called Paper Bus that is ad-sponsored. I tried it out and it works great!

  9. shanghaihalfpat - 22 January 2010

    Strange, 12VPN’s support told me I can go by month payment, either manually every month by credit card or automatically with paypal. Maybe you could drop them an email? They usually reply promptly.

    Thanks for the tip about SecureVPN!

    Susan, I wouldn’t really use the free proxy services as it’s far from secure (I don’t want my passwords to be leaked).

  10. Susan Wu - 22 January 2010

    Security, of course, is of importance for some people. I don’t mind paying for a secure connection, but I know there are some people who don’t want to pay for VPN … or consider the locals that can’t afford or don’t have a credit card to pay for VPN, I think PaperBus is a great alternative to accessing blocked sites.

  11. hayley - 22 January 2010

    Even strange, that 12vpn have sent me a vpn login + client login and ive not paid them.. is this normal? :/ it even works on their site to see how much limit ive used of the 10gb. Of course i have not tried it since it could be classed as stealing, but surely they should send a login after ive paid (which i did not)

    I will try paperbus i dont mind ads but its the speed that bothers me with free vpn’s.

  12. Al Jensen - 22 January 2010

    I am downloading paperbus as we speak, thanks for the heads up!

  13. Taobao FOCUS - 28 January 2010

    Here is free and fast VPN here:

    I regularly update that soft. it changes very often.

  14. China maps - 3 February 2010

    Will paperbus un-block,

    Any one know why this movie review site is been blocked by Chinese govt?

  15. m. - 9 February 2010

    @Susan I had the same issue with Witopia (buying SSL and then later wanting the PPT). I was persistent with the company they let me retroactively buy the combined plan. Any other way doesn’t make sense–otherwise with multi-year use the renew dates would keep missing each other, and long-term . They’re actually also nice and very responsive.

    Unfortunately, it was an empty victory, as in Guangdong the PPTP doesn’t work more often then not. On an iPod touch, it seems to vary by connection–ironically, the only place it consistently works is my home connection. I’m curious what kind of success people are having with iPhone/Touch using 12VPN.

    Witopia says a much more reliable option is weeks away. We’ll see what they come up with.

  16. Julia - 10 February 2010

    I was just at the 12vpn website, and I couldn’t find the lite version. Does anyone know if they have taken it off or if I just can’t see it for some reason? Any advice?

  17. shanghaihalfpat - 12 February 2010

    Hey Julia, you’re right. Lite version seems to have disappeared. I suspect it’s a change of business plan. I’ll be contacting them to find out and let you know.

  18. Glenda - 12 February 2010

    Hello Shanghaihalfpat,

    Yes, i’m looking at lite plan as well as i want to subscribe to it now. Please let me know once you’ve got any info..

  19. Nini - 17 February 2010

    Moved to Guangdong province recently and need a VPN to unblock FB, YT, NBC, Hulu, etc. for home connection. Based on wide range of comments, does anyone know which service works better in this area (12VPN or WITopia)? Really reluctant to subscribe for a year listening to some of the problems people been having (i.e. blocked sites, loading times, etc.)
    Would appreciate any comments or suggestions. Thanks.

  20. shanghaihalfpat - 18 February 2010

    Hey guys, sorry for the delay in replying as I’m away for the Spring Festival. Hope everyone is having a great holiday!

    So I checked with the 12vpn team and they sent me this reply:

    We’ve removed it from the homepage because very few people order it, and those that do are sometimes confused by the data-limit.

    However, 12von lite is still available here

    Nini, I honestly haven’t tried witopia, but 12vpn has enabled me to access all sites as if I were in the US/UK so it’s perfect. What won me over was that I can use 12VPN on my iPhone. :)

    Hope that helps everyone!

  21. Nini - 18 February 2010

    Happy Chinese New Year too! Thanks Shanghaihalfpat author for the info and link. I’ll give it a try…

  22. Julia - 19 February 2010

    Thank you so much for tracking down that link. Hope you enjoyed the holiday!

  23. shanghaihalfpat - 12 April 2010

    Hey guys,

    I’m giving away a FREE VPN! Find out how here:

  24. lili - 8 May 2010

    Hi !

    Thanks for this very enlightening post. I’m a big traveller and 12vpn (the one i choosed because I also have an Iphone) seems to be a great solution for me.
    an other vpn that my sister uses(she’s in shanghai) is prairiedogvpn. You can pay weekly, monthly or else which can be very useful for people travelling for short period.

  25. akclau - 14 July 2010

    I have accounts with both and 12vpn looks more high end with its OpenVPN protocol… but Oriental VPN is noticeably faster when connecting from China since their server is based in HK.

    The other issue in China is DNS poisoning… just using a VPN is not enough… you gotta change your DNS settings on your actual internet connection to use OpenDNS to get to certain block sites.

  26. ShanghaiHalfpat - 14 July 2010

    Thanks for the info, akclau. 12vpn's server is based in HK too, thus the high speed. :)

  27. akclau - 14 July 2010

    Hi! I can't find a 12vpn server in HK. The ones listed are Fremont, London (UK), Los Angeles, Maidenhead (UK), Newark, San Jose. If there is one can you let me know I want to try it out too!

  28. Honda - 22 July 2010

    Is discount still available? I am trying to connect YouTu**.

  29. Shanghai Halfpat - 26 July 2010

    Hi akclau, what I meant was that 12VPN's server (host?) is based in HK. :)

  30. ShanghaiHalfpat - 26 July 2010

    Yes Honda, the discount is available till 31 Dec 2010! Simply enter “SHANGHAIHALFPAT” under promotional code!

  31. Jade - 8 August 2010

    i use GoVPNGo. they have fast hong kong servers available. helped me to surf youtube, facebook, twitter without any issue when i was in cn. works on my ipad. lol..

  32. Jizuzi - 22 August 2010

    SwitchVPN – Fast – Quality Support – 1Gbit Network – USA , DE , UK , NL – PPTP & OpenVPN ( 2048bit Encryption Highest Level of Security ) Enjoy Internet Freedom access all website :)

    Get 15% Off on 12month Purchase on Any VPN ( USA , UK , NL , DE) Promotional Code : AUG15 Expires 31st Aug.

  33. Honda - 27 August 2010

    Already bought FBVPN with Usd5/mon so far so good, thank you anyway!

  34. shanghaihalfpat - 5 September 2010

    Thanks for the heads up! It’ll be sad if many of us using various VPN services to get unrestricted internet will be thrown back to square one should our VPNs get blocked. But as of now, it doesn’t seem like any of us with paid VPNs get disconnected…

  35. Miklos_c - 5 September 2010

    Strong VPN offers servers worldwide and has great tech support and good pricing.
    -You can also get a normal account and add a lite PPTP connection for 1$

    Many forms of connections especially VPN's PPTP/OpenVPN are now getting blocked in China.
    They are currently using a form of average idle bandwidth for such connections to track who is using it then temporarily severing the connection.If you use your VPN continuously at random bandwidths you should not have this issue as I have yet to be disconnected while using it only while idle.Although since most users do use them for such things as facebook and other things that just require loading pages I see many will start to have issues now.

    Anyways beside the point VPN's PPTP and OpenVPN are starting to get blocked in China just a heads up. They seem to check idle bandwidth averages on internet connections then temporarily block the connection. I think they are rather ingenious in their way of addressing this.. unfortunately I have not had a disconnect while my connection is active.

  36. Uworich - 28 September 2010

    i'd also recommend checking out … it's a tad more expensive, but the speeds and flexibility i've experienced have been quite positive … the lack of a contract is also attractive. :)

  37. lather zhao - 20 October 2010

    Please pay attention to

    I have been using this for a long time.

  38. Jane Maino - 12 November 2010

    I use MakeMeHidden adn I've completely satisfied with service quality and price of that.
    Their site is

  39. Mike - 12 November 2010

    Happy VPN has a fast Hong Kong server

  40. Daniel Ford - 11 June 2011

    12VPN is great – I use it all the time. They’ve changed their prices quite a bit recently though. They used to be just 30 dollar for a year of lite service, and now the lite service isn’t available. They’ve just got two versions of the personal service. Still a great service though. I checked today, and it seems StrongVPN is down again. It’s hard to keep up on these, but I generally do as I’ve got a blog about VPN’s in China.

    If you’re in China, I think you could benefit from my blog

  41. Welcome to goodburger - 14 June 2011

    Somebody told me about ???  It’s supposed to be new.  They say they have servers in US and UK.  Anybody know anything about it?

  42. Monster33 - 11 October 2011

    I use it.  It works on my iPhone so I get Pandora and at home I watch Hulu.  Love’em

  43. Ann Moroz - 11 October 2011

    I use usa vpn account to unblock restricted sites and stay anonymous and it works perfect.

  44. Chris F - 14 December 2011

    Thanks for the info. U.S is about to block internet as well. fuck that. There goes our rights.

  45. 12vpn - 15 December 2011

    12VPN works fine in China. Please contact support if you experience problems.

  46. Chinauser - 22 March 2012

    12vpn work well in China. Likewise their support team are fast, polite and flexible.

    As far as I am aware they do not censor your access to any website (Witopia will block your access to only strange thing about 12VPN is their suspension policy for users who torrent. I mean, if you are torrenting and accidentally leave your VPN on for even a minute your account gets suspended automatically. So one minute you have a working VPN service and are settled for the year, then 2 minutes later your account stops working and you are suspended without discussion or warning – just an email informing you that you are suspended. 12vpn do not mind refunding you your money. They are very polite and patient. But they don’t seem interested in the extreme inconvenience this apparently undisclosed policy of theirs can cause for long term customers in a matter of minutes.

  47. Dallas Cao - 24 March 2012

    Try BreakWall VPN. .It always works in China.

  48. Jylores - 11 April 2012

    I’m using VPNninja because they have a server in Japan instead of US. So, internet connection is faster!! Works well to me and the staff is very friendly ^^

  49. VPNinja Squad - 17 May 2013

    VPNinja – definitely the way to go in Shanghai. Local support, cash payment options, a new VPNinja router that is always connected, and unlimited roundhouse kicks to The Man’s smug ugly face.

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