The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai's official Weibo post seeking virtual private network (VPN) suppliers on Wednesday was met with surprise by many Net users, though the post was removed quickly.
"The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai is looking for stable VPNs with special line services. Eligible suppliers with qualifications are welcome to provide proposals and price quotes to us," reads the post released on Wednesday afternoon. A link to "job opportunities" at the consulate was also included in the post.
However, the post was deleted within an hour of its appearance.
Some Web users were surprised by the advertisement. "I saw Yankees hiding in the corner of a socialist country and trembling," Twitter user cj said.
A staff member of the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai told the Global Times on Wednesday that there is not yet any official comment on the post.
Foreign embassies in China have their own measures for reaching overseas websites and online services that are blocked in China, a Chinese employee of an embassy told the Global Times on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity.
Embassies primarily use VPNs, though some will also resort to satellite Internet access, the employee explained, pointing out the presence of satellite dishes atop the building of the U.S. Embassy in China.
Due to the need for secrecy, they will normally use their own special servers instead of depending on private VPN suppliers, he said.
In recent years, more and more Chinese Net users have begun to seek alternatives ways to surf the Internet beyond the Great Firewall by using mirror websites or VPNs.
Twitter reportedly estimated in early July that it has around 10 million active users in China.
Analysts said the figure shows that the need to use VPNs to log in to overseas social media is not a significant obstacle, especially for young users.