Chinese Government Relaxes Its Total Ban on Wikipedia [NY Times]
17, Oct 2006 07:24
“We are pleased to see the change, but would like to see the Chinese version unblocked, too,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, the encyclopedia created by voluntary contributors. “We don’t know what prompted the block and don’t know what prompted the unblock.”
Even days after word first spread on the Internet about the change in access, Wikipedia contributors and administrators in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong said they were trying to determine if any English-language articles were still being blocked. Andrew Lih, a Chinese-American in Beijing researching a book about Wikipedia, reported on his blog, www.andrewlih.com/blog, that he could get access to many controversial subjects, but could not read the English-language article about the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Internet companies and nonprofits like Wikipedia have been forced to choose between cooperating with the Chinese government and losing access to the growing online audience there. Organizations like Reporters Without Borders have criticized Yahoo, Google and MSN, saying they have “yielded to the Chinese government’s censorship requests.”
The Chinese-language Wikipedia has more than 90,000 articles, and one long-time contributor to the site said that “conservatively 40 percent are mainland contributors.” That contributor, who insisted on anonymity for fear of antagonizing the Chinese government, also wrote in an e-mail message yesterday that, “although I have no solid evidence, the growth of the number of mainland users is much lowered,” citing the ban on the site last October and the creation of the more restricted “Baidupedia,” by Baidu, China’s largest search engine. Still, the contributor concluded, “no matter the situation, some access is definitely better than no access.”
Mr. Wales attended a Chinese Wikipedia conference this summer in Hong Kong, which had about 130 attendees, including an estimated 20 from the mainland. “It was a very emotional event for them, it was the first time they had met each other from Taiwan, the mainland and Hong Kong,” he said. “It was a big deal for them that the mainlanders couldn’t access Wikipedia.” NOAM COHEN