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China bans Wikipedia before 30th anniversary of 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising

The photo for the Tiananmen Square Protests Wikipedia page. In April, China blocked the website in all available languages.
The photo for the Tiananmen Square Protests Wikipedia page. In April, China blocked the website in all available languages. - Wikimedia

This new block now includes all pages in every available language

In another move to restrict what its citizens see online, China has banned the wikipedia.org domain just weeks before the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

In April, organizations such as the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)—a project that provides tools to verify internet censorship around the world—found that China was blocking all access to sites under the wikipedia.org domain.

Since 2015, China has been blocking access to the Chinese-language page of the open-sourced information website, but this new block now includes all pages in every available language.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, confirmed that the site is not accessible in China. They said the organization has not received any information from the Chinese government as to why the block is happening and why now.

“With the expansion of this block, millions of readers and volunteer editors, writers, academics, and researchers within China cannot access this resource or share their knowledge and achievements with the world,” the statement said. “When one country, region, or culture cannot join the global conversation on Wikipedia, the entire world is poorer.”

Mai Truong, the Research Director for Strategy and Management for Freedom House, an American democratic freedom watchdog, said the block doesn’t come as a surprise, and it’s consistent with a broader trend of Chinese authorities cracking down on any freedom of expression online.

“The internet freedom landscape in China is already so highly restricted, with so much censored under a really extensive surveillance and censorship apparatus in the country,” Truong said. “Censoring other languages in Wikipedia is kind of a drop in the bucket since there’s so much that’s already censored.”

Truong added that she thinks the timing of the block coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4.

According to the Wikipedia page for the Tiananmen Square Protests , in 1989, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army killed thousands of protesters who were attempting to march onto Tiananmen Square to demand, among other things, for democracy and freedom of speech.

“Every year, we’ve seen a growing breadth of content that’s blocked around critical events like Tiananmen Square and other high-profile government events,” Truong said.

Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom on the Net report, an annual report of the internet freedoms of 65 countries around the world, placed China as the year’s “worst abuser of internet freedom” for the fourth consecutive year. The report cited the punishment of online dissidents, increased censorship regulations, and advancements in surveillance technology as reasoning for their score.

The report also stated that other repressive regimes around the world have begun to adopt China’s online censorship model, as they’re seeing how successful China has been without any negative repercussions on their economy.

Truong said having limited access to information on the internet limits the ability of Chinese citizens to “live freely”, and actively participate in their society.

“It limits the ability to make demands for more openness and make governments accountable,” she said.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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