Chinese block of Wikimedia enters tenth week

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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The blocking of the Wikimedia project by government agencies of the People's Republic of China has entered its tenth week. The Wikimedia project includes Wikinews as well as other popular sites such as Wikipedia.

First instituted on October 19, this is the third such block in China, upsetting students and researchers who say that it is having a significant impact on their ability to conduct research, and even pass civil service exams. It is unclear why they are using Wikipedia as a sole source for research in the first place.

There is little indication of whether the block is temporary or permanent. As with all Internet blocks instituted by the PRC, government agencies have not commented. Wikimedia has been blocked twice in the past and Wikipedia users have speculated that the two previous blocks, both in 2004, were due to articles on banned subjects – such as Taiwanese independence and the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989.

Official Wikimedia logo

Many users in China have been using proxy servers and other means to circumvent the block. Hopes that the block would be quickly lifted, like the previous two times, faded as weeks turned into months.

On October 21st, a prominent Chinese Wikipedia administrator posted, "If nothing goes wrong, the block should be lifted within one week." He followed up on the 24th by saying, "The block will be lifted by Wednesday [October 26]. According to procedure (the details of which are unknown), after the appeal is submitted, a reply will come within 3 business days, and my appeal has already been submitted by the ISP on Friday. My ISP has said that so far they haven't encountered a case where an appeal has failed. This should be good news, but it's still impossible to know the reason for the block." Since then, there has been no reported response from government agencies.

During the first block in 2004, users of the project petitioned their ISPs, one of which is thought to have had a role in restoring access. The second block, slightly later in the year, was only temporary, lasting four days.

The Chinese government has an active policy of blocking websites they consider harmful. Sites that have been blocked include foreign news sites (BBC News as an example), information about Tibetan independence, the Falun Gong and some websites based in Taiwan.

Wikimedia Foundation maintains a group of non-profit websites dedicated to open content information that any user can edit. It includes an encyclopedia, news, quote archives, and other information.

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Sources

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