Tor, another way to get around the Great Firewall of China

Living in China is a pain in the a** since many internet sites have been blocked by the 5th greatest invention by Chinese, namely the Great Firewall of China. Having been using SSH tunnelling to establish a private channel to my own server hosted somewhere else, browsing websites becomes possible again. But this method doesn’t help those who don’t have the technical know-how to set it up or are not as fortunate as us to own a server overseas, Tor comes to rescue. On my Debian system, it requires near-zero effort to install and configure. I just apt-get (or aptitude) install tor privoxy, adds forward-socks4a / localhost:9050 . (don’t forget the dot at the end of the line) to /etc/privoxy/config, and then restart privoxy by /etc/init.d/privoxy restart. Then I set the HTTP and HTTPS proxy of my Firefox to 127.0.0.1 and port 8118, and poof! I can now go to any websites that have been filtered, such as www.mingpaonews.com, www.appledaily.com and even the Google cache!

Actually using Tor alone without Privoxy can already let you visit most of the blocked sites. But due to the “DNS hijack” done by the authority, you will get incorrect IP addresses for some sites, such as www.rthk.org.hk and www.881903.com, the two radio stations in Hong Kong. The DNS will return random IP addresses to you when you’re querying for these site’s IP. As a result, you’ll be brought to a website that’s not what you want. Privoxy resolves this problem since your web browser is now passing the hostname to Tor instead of the incorrect IP resolved by the “viral DNS”.

We will wait and see when the government start to implement technologies to prevent people from using Tor, like blocking the directory servers or filtering traffic that looks like the Tor protocol in the Great Firewall. But until then, I hope Tor can help those who are still under the fascist rule of their government but are eager to explore the outside world.

18 thoughts on “Tor, another way to get around the Great Firewall of China”

  1. Hi,

    Right now I’m posting through SSH tunnelling, but only after I noticed that I had forgotten to turn on the proxying.

    In other words, i was able to: 1) Access your blog, 2) Browse around in it, 3) Read your Great Firewall post, 4) Access the Tor website, 5) Browse around in it!!

    Isn’t that interesting? I would have though that the Great Firewall wouldn’t have let me access your blog, much less the Tor website.

    Maybe they’re loosening up because of the Olympics and all that…

    PS: Sorry about my “name” and “email”. I’m just paranoid like that :)

  2. Well, I think my blog (which is hosted outside of mainland China) is not famous enough to be under the radar of the Chinese authorities yet, so mine is not blocked :) Though if you’re living within mainland China, mostly likely you won’t be able to access http://www.rthk.org.hk and http://www.881903.com, unless you are living in a selected few hotels or the embassies :)

  3. 较少关心政治,被封的站点基本不访问;只是偶尔有些想看的blog被封就不爽了;
    不过我习惯使用bloglines访问被封的国外blog站。新闻 到 zaobao.com或是凤凰卫视看看就差不多了。

  4. Hi there-

    I happened to search for “linux” and “881903.com” on google and stumbled upon your site. I am wondering if you were able to listen to 881903.com contents in linux? They offer windows media and realplayer formats. I tried using mplayer and Realplayer10 (and their relevant plugins) with firefox browser to no avail. I have looked long and hard in many places but were not able to get this problem resolved. I was hoping you were able to do so, and if so how did you do it!!

    Sorry for being way off topic, but you’re like my only hope right now. Hope to hear from you. Thanks.

  5. Yes, I can listen to 881903.com by RealPlayer 8 or the RealOne player (may not be available for download any more). Helix player can’t play the programmes because 881903 is using an old version of Real server which Helix doesn’t have the codec to support it.

  6. Hi, I also happened to search for linux and 881903 and reached this site. I have been using gentoo and ubuntu for awhile, but I couldn’t listen to the 881903 archive. I tried all versions of the RealPlayer and none of them worked for me.

    May I ask whether you were referring to live radio or the paid archive service? Did you have to compile your real player from source?

  7. Thanks Leela for tips, but there are two problems to those of us living in PRC. One, sites blocked by the PRC government are still unable to be accessed through Anonymouse.org. And two, Chinese characters may become illegible characters.

  8. SOS!!!SOS!!!~

    I downloaded a tor something (along with a privoxy thing, XP version) but I don’t know how to make it WORK~~捶床ing, 我知道我是小白~~
    I opened the Privoxy thing and it looks just like a notepad and all I can be sure about it is that it’s definitely NOT a notepad……..
    And the FAQ’s driving me mad! 看不懂啊~~~(我的英语水平相当于高中以下~因为我就是mainland高二学生=_=b)
    『 apt-get (or aptitude) install tor privoxy, adds forward-socks4a / localhost:9050 . (don’t forget the dot at the end of the line) to /etc/privoxy/config, and then restart privoxy by /etc/init.d/privoxy restart.』
    什么意思啊~~Anthony 讲讲好不好~~/etc/privoxy/config是在哪儿啊?什么东西?怎么add?
    (我用的firefox1.5 的browser~)
    By the way, I’ve got something called a torpark already
    Does that has anything to do with the TOR we are talking about? Sorry, I know that must be a stupid question…
    HUGE, HUGE, REALLY HUGE THANX~

  9. TO Maybe Later:
    Actually, our government’s dear sweet little firewall’s not yet that advanced, though they must have spent immeasurably huge numbers of money on it(…………………….$%#@^&*!)
    So far, the firewall is just blocking some political sites available in chinese~~~as far as i know

    wishing my English is not causing to much trouble

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  11. I use Astrill to Bypass China Firewall.
    it supports Iphone/Android too
    They also offer OpenVPN too now all this just for as low as
    $10 now thats what i call AWESOME 😀
    Search Astrill

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