Chinese Wikipedia Blocked Again; A Big Deal? Not Really.

In the evolving cat-and-mouse game of censorship in China, the English Wikipedia has become completely unblocked, again, becoming accessible to Chinese behind its so-called “Great Firewall” of China. However, the Chinese version of Wikipedia remains completely blocked, creating what some believe to be a half-hearted victory at best. There has been a history of blocking, partially blocking, and completely unblocking both the English and Chinese Wikipedias over the past few years, with this latest unblocking only the latest chapter in this drama.

Is this a big deal, however?  It might not be.  Here’s why.
With the ability for anyone to edit Wikipedia, however, it might suprise you to learn that the content of the English and Chinese Wikipedias actually differ quite substantially in certain controversial areas of Chinese history and culture. Its almost as though its a more pervasive form of censorship; rather than merely blocking out historical facts, Chinese contributors are trying to reorganize their own history by ignoring some facts, while highlighting others.

The Tiannamen Square Massacre, for example, in the English Wikipedia, lists that “hundreds” died; in the Chinese Wikipedia, such acknowedgement cannot be found.
So, is the blocking of the Chinese Wikipedia a big deal — not really.  It seems like enough Chinese patriates are doing a good job in using Wikipedia’s own rules to “rewrite” their own history.

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View Comments (7)
  • At the moment, Wikipedia is blocked (I just tried and I live in Beijing). But this isn’t anything new. I don’t really even notice the “Great Firewall” anymore, as most times I’ll use Tor or a web proxy to gain access to any of the blocked sites.

    You might think that the Chinese are fed up of access being restricted, but on the whole there’s a lot of apathy about accessing the banned sites (have a look at this post on Danwei).

  • Thanks for the link Steve.

    I’d be interested in what other readers have to say about this as well — but there certainly does seem to be the attitude of “I don’t really care as long as no one bothers me”.

  • “The Tiannamen Square Massacre, for example, in the English Wikipedia, lists that “hundreds” died; in the Chinese Wikipedia, such acknowedgement cannot be found.”

    Excuse me? In the very first paragraph of the Chinese Wikipedia article on the Tiananmen Square massacre, it says:


    “In the end, [the protests] ended when the government gathered the military and violently suppressed it, resulting in the deaths of a number of (actual figure unknown; various sources point of several hundred to one thousand) students and residents.”

    If you scroll down about halfway you will see the famous picture of the Tank Man.


  • … which is precisely the reason why we’re bringing on aboard someone who can read Chinese!

    Thanks for chiming in on this important topic, Ran.
    I stand corrected, if its in fact the case.


  • Unless the Chinese themselves protest vehemently such types of suppressive steps will go on. I’m not suggesting campaigns like the Tienanmen square because personally I don’t want people dying in the hands of barbaric regimes but there should be a concerted effort among the masses. Recently I read in an article that even the younger generation doesn’t mind the communist government there. I think democratic protests only work where democracy exists. For instance, this summer in India when the government blocked blogs all the major bloggers vociferously protested and the government not only denied any involvement the blogs too were unblocked within two days.

  • “But on sensitive questions of China’s modern history or on hot-button issues, the Chinese version diverges so dramatically from its English counterpart that it sometimes reads as if it were approved by the censors themselves.” from [ Chinese-language Wikipedia presents different view of history]

    I know, right now, those chinese spy moderators must be really hoping that they can delete this topic asap. I posted a similar comment on the chinese page, it was IMMEDIATLY deleted. and all my other comments which are not related to this topic, which are very relevant to those topics were also deleted, and somehow those chinese spy moderators also made them “disappeared” as if they did not delete anything at all. and then they banned me for “vandalism.”

    It is a known fact that China blocked its people’s access to wikipedia. however, i checked the chinese page, they have total of 29 moderators that are in China! 6 from beijing, 6 from guangzhou, 6 from shanghai, etc. There are more moderators from China than from any other parts of the world. however, if the chinese are blocked from getting on here, how can those Chinese moderators still have time and resources to moderate the chinese wikipedia? isn’t that odd?

    you may have heard about [[Shi Tao]], the chinese government put him in jail for 10 years because the government was able to find his location thru a single IP address which was reported by yahoo. those 29 moderators’ are listed publicly on the chinese page. So it is quite obvious that the chinese government must have those 29 mainland chinese moderators’ personal informaiton. I highly suspect that most of the chinese mainland moderators are spies sent by the Chinese communists. It is a banned web site, what kind of people are willing to edit a web site that is banned by his or her own government especially in china?!

    I can probably safely say that there are more people using the chinese version from Hong Kong and Taiwan than people from [[mainland China]]. however, [[Hongkong]] only has 13, [[Taiwan]] has 17. isn’t that odd? further, during my time on that site, as far as I know, no moderator from hong kong banned or deleted my contributions, and there are 13 of them. if I really did something wrong, shouldn’t they also be able to ban or delete? and who can gurantee that those moderators who are listed under other country names are not really from mainland china?

    Another thing, it is forbidden to gather without government permit in China. however, that chinese site recently even had two meetings in capital – [[Beijing]] and in city of guangzhou. there are constant reports about police harassing and spying on people who secretly gathered in churches which are not approved by the government, etc. so there is no way that the government doesn’t spy on those wikipedia meetings. It is just shocking to see those moderators so “bravely” advertising on the public page. and when I posted a question about my doubt, it was immediatly deleted as usual. those comment pages were also put into protection.

    i am not insance or crazy. It is also a known fact that china has spies in taiwan. it seems to me that the moderator from taiwan jasonzhoucn is also very “communistly” suspicious. one time, i added to only two extra links to an article of the chinese golden shield project, he immediatly deleted them without a reason. he also deleted the extra information that i have added for some of the articles.

    i am not crazy, or delusional. however, think about it, the chinese have to use special programs, proxy servers in order to get on this page. and even if they have high speed, the speed won’t be fast enough. who would have the patience even to edit those pages if the internet connection is not fast enough? there are 13 billion chinese, how many of them can actually get on here easily? so how is that possible that there are so many mainland chinese moderators?! and since the majority of Chinese can’t get on this site, you would expect that there are lots of articles pro taiwan’s independence, but there are not a lot. And the article about “Two Chinas” was actually deleted TWICE in just November. And one of the moderator later on said that he did not find any history about its delettion at all?!

    The reason that i am suspecting is because of what happened to me recently. i tried to edit the page for the “peopel’s republic of china”. even today, that article does not have a single word about human rights and falun gong. i added those two items, immediatly a mainland chinese moderator deleted my contribution, then put that article into protection. i have added many similar contents in other articles. most of them have been deleted by those mainland chinese moderators.

    when i tried to voice my suspision and my comments on those community forums, those moderators immediatly deleted them. then they banned me , accused me doing “vandalism?!”

    with 29 chinese mainlander moderators, that site is basically controlled by the chinese spies sent by the communist party. they do not allow people to add anything that are bad about the chinese communist party. so here i am, I don’t know if this is the proper place to voice my opinion. i seriously think that someone should take a look into this matter.

    “But on sensitive questions of China’s modern history or on hot-button issues, the Chinese version diverges so dramatically from its English counterpart that it sometimes reads as if it were approved by the censors themselves.” [1] This indeed confirmed my suspicion.

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