Full Text: Shi's Defense of Wikipedia

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Translated by The Washington Post Beijing Bureau
Saturday, February 18, 2006; 1:18 PM

Shi Zhao's latest letter appealing for access to Wikipedia to be restored, written Oct. 21, 2005:

Thank you very much for helping me to overcome the blocking of the Wikipedia Web site. I am one of the members of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia Web site, made using Wiki technology. It is currently the largest Web site in the world using this kind of technology, and also the fastest growing and largest encyclopedia Web site in the world. We feel great anxiety over the sudden blocking of its Web site.

The Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization located in the United States, is responsible for maintaining the Wikipedia.org project. It also includes Wiktionary (a free, multilingual dictionary, http://wiktionary.org/), Wikiquote (a free collection of famous quotes, http://wikiquote.org/), Wikibooks (a free collection of textbooks, http://wikibooks.org/) , Wikisources (a free collection of ancient texts, http://sources.wikipedia.org/) and Metawiki (a comprehensive discussion of the above projects, http://meta.wikipedia.org/) The are auxiliary projects to Wikipedia. As of now, all of these projects are blocked.

Wikipedia and its sister projects abide by the GNU Free Documentation License copyright agreement. All Wikipedia content is created by volunteers around the world. We have a strict copyright investigation process to guarantee that our content is original, and will not infringe on copyright.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia Web site. It is an abstract and a summary of the knowledge of humankind. Our goal is to offer free access to all the knowledge of humankind to every person on the planet. This information is compiled in the format of encyclopedia entries. Its content includes the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Wikipedia's official policy is neutral point of view (NPOV). The guiding principle of editing Wikipedia articles is objective, neutral and unbiased expression of differing academic points of view. Personal views of editors are not allowed to be written into articles.

Wikipedia already has editions in over 100 languages. There are over one million articles in total. English articles are the most numerous, with over 600,000. The Chinese edition was started later. It currently only has 50,000 articles. Wikipedia editors and staff are volunteers from all over the world. Many are Ph.Ds and specialists of various disciplines. The participants in the Chinese edition of Wikipedia are Chinese people from all over the world as well as foreigners engaged in Sinology. We hope that through our efforts we can make Chinese resources on the Internet more plentiful. The management of the Chinese edition is primarily made up of volunteers from mainland China. They have put painstaking effort into maintaining and developing the Chinese edition. However, due to the blocking of the Web site, the managers have unable to perform daily maintenance. This leads to variation in the quality of articles. When people maliciously post harmful articles, they cannot be corrected and deleted in a timely maner.

Wikipedia is attracting more and more attention. The ever-increasing resources of Wikipedia are used by growing numbers of students, journalists and others who use the Internet to do research. Wikipedia has been quoted thousands of times in all kinds of articles and publications, including news reports, books, dissertations and legal documents. Domestically, China Youth Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily, Computer News, China Computer Education News and New Weekly have all reported on it. Scholars at MIT and elsewhere are currently researching the Wikipedia model. Additionally, Wikipedia this year received a Webby Award, the Oscars of the Internet, for Best Community Web site, as well as the Austria Electronic Arts Center grand prize for electronic art. Wikipedia is currently working with Yahoo! to offer lists of the newest content. According to statistics from Alexa.com (http://www.alexa.com/), Wikipedia is one of the ten most popular reference Web sites on the Internet.

The Chinese edition of Wikipedia is rooted in Chinese culture. Currently there are many articles introducing Chinese culture and history. As the renown of Wikipedia increases, more and more people visit this Web site. Furthermore, many of the articles on Chinese culture in other editions of Wikipedia are translated from articles in the Chinese edition. This makes the Chinese edition of Wikipedia a window through which overseas Chinese and foreigners can learn about China.

Moreover, the Wikipedia format is also a new trial in education. After joining Wikipedia, many students find that it is helpful to their review and grasp of the information they have studied. One participant from Nanjing University once said, "Many Wikipedia articles gather knowledge from multiple sources. This is a great summary of a study topic." While using Wikipedia, we also personally experienced the convenience it brings to study and research. Additionally, because Wikipedia is multilingual, people can improve their abilities in foreign languages through translation of articles.

Wikipedia isn't a Web site for spreading reactionary speech or a pure political commentary site. It is just a encyclopedia Web site that collects knowledge from all academic disciplines and publicizes Chinese culture. Although Wikipedia has articles about Falun Gong, the Taiwan problem, and the 1989 political disturbance, the policies of the Wikipedia community do not allow personal opinions to appear in articles. The nature of the articles is similar to a summary of literature. We just give an impartial introduction to objects and events, just as other encyclopedias do (for example, articles in The Encyclopedia of China).

In June of this year, our Web site was blocked. After our application, we were grateful to relevant departments for resolving the blocking of the Web site. At this time, Wikipedia founder and chair of the Wikimedia Foundation James Wales published an appeal. He said, "We are not in any way a political Web site. We are just an ordinary online encyclopedia that uses neutral policies to write its entries. The articles online were carefully edited and discussed by editors on mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere. Wikipedia should not have been blocked, because it neither propagated rumors nor spread religious superstitions. It is neither a gambling Web site nor does it offer pornography or express any political standpoint. "Wales also said he welcomes corrections and editing of our entries from the Chinese government in accordance with our neutral policies. Wales hopes that by 2025 Wikipedia can offer standard reference material to all Chinese people, including newspapers and electronic media.

The closure of Wikipedia may allow some people who harbor evil intentions to use its influence to disseminate rumors, and management will be unable to perform maintenance. We hope that the relevant bureaus will review our request, and at the appropriate time remove the block on Wikipedia and its sister projects.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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