Chinese ban on Wikipedia lifted for now

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Friday, October 13, 2006

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Internet users on the Chinese-forums.com website report that the longtime block of Wikipedia by China has been at least temporarily lifted. Absent an announcement from the Chinese government, it's unclear what the conditions were that caused the site to be accessible from within China.

A blog by Wikipedia contributor Andrew Lih says that someone in "Beijing emailed me saying he could suddenly start using Wikipedia again. Some folks in Hubei said it was still blocked. Shanghai and Guangdong users said parts were accessible."

He continued that "from a Beijing China Netcom's residential DSL connection, the English language and other foreign language versions are now accessible, but the Chinese version is still blocked", noting that the Chinese-language version is the most important one to most Wikipedians in the country.

The blog entry goes on to explain the finer points of China's blocking system, which is more complex than most media outlets suggest.

Wikimedia head Jimmy Wales told Moneycontrol.com yesterday that, "We don't know what they took offense to. We really don't intend to compromise the way Google did. We also feel that the block is an error. I am trying to set up high-level meetings in China to state our case and explain why we should be unblocked. We have no idea what the result of that would be. But we are somewhat hopeful. Wikipedia is not a haven for dissidents but an encyclopedia. About 99.9 percent of Wikipedia has topics that are not of interest to the Chinese Government. There is no political component. We are hopeful that they can see the point."

He also told the outlet, he stressed how such bans were blocking Chinese perspectives in the global media. "[The] Chinese people would like to contribute to Wikipedia to give the Chinese point of view for the entire world to see. And China needs to be better understood by the rest of the world."

The third block of Wikipedia, which was implemented 19 October 2005, was issued without explanation or an expected length. Wikipedia has been blocked twice before, the first from 2-21 June 2004, due to the 15th anniversary of the Tian'anmen Square Incident.

A website called baidu.com runs a self-censored wiki-based encyclopedia website, called baidubaike.com, launched in April of this year.

Wikipedia is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation based out of St. Petersberg, Florida. Its 2007 annual convention, Wikimania, is set to take place in Taipei.

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