• A U.S. embassy official promotes the new visa app to Chinese students in Beijing.

A U.S. embassy official promotes the new visa app to Chinese students in Beijing. (Photo : Getty Images)

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai has not issued an official word on the post seeking virtual private network (VPN) suppliers, which appeared on its official Weibo account on Wednesday, Aug. 10, the Global Times reported.

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Many Net users were surprised at the post, which was removed within an hour after it was posted.

"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, which also included a link to 'job opportunities' at the consulate.

The consulate has not issued any official comment on the post, a staff member of the U.S. Consulate told Global Times, although the post was deleted immediately.

The advertisement also shocked some Web users, who did not expect to see it. "I saw Yankees hiding in the corner of a socialist country and trembling," a user named cj said in his Tweeter account.

Since foreign websites and online services are blocked in China, many foreign embassies have found a way to connect to these sites, according to an unnamed Chinese employee of an embassy.

While embassies use VPNs, some also use satellite Internet access, the employee said, as he pointed out to the satellite dishes on top of the U.S. embassy building.

The employee added that embassies often use their special servers instead of private VPNs to connect to the Net and maintain secrecy or security of their connections.

In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese users have started to find other ways to connect to the Internet. One way is by using mirror websites or VPNs to connect past the Great Firewall.

Twitter said in July that it has an estimated 10 million active users in China.

The figure shows that it is not that challenging, especially for young users, to log in to overseas social media by using VPNs, analysts said.