The Great Firewall of China

Full Text: Cui Objects to Wikipedia Shutdown

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Translated by The Washington Post Beijing Bureau
Sunday, February 19, 2006; 6:24 PM

On Oct. 31, 2005, Cui Wei released the following letter appealing for access to Wikipedia to be restored:

On the night of Oct. 19, I discovered that I could not reach the Chinese Wikipedia page (http://zh.wikipedia.org/). Later, I found that pages of Wikipedia in other languages and other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation were also inaccessible. After consulting with my Internet service provider, I learned that Wikipedia had been blocked. The Internet service provider suggested that I explain the content and use of Wikipedia, and provide an application to unblock it.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, with open content and copyright. It has more than 100 versions in different languages. It ranks in the top 50 on the global Web sites list of Alexa. It is among the top three Web sites that provide information. In the search results of Google, Baidu and other search engines, some entries of Wikipedia are ranked relatively high. The content provided by Wikipedia has no substantial difference from a traditional encyclopedia. It includes history, culture, politics, economics, science, technology, medical science and other fields. All the articles objectively introduce a subject, without any illegal, counter-revolutionary or pornographic harmful information. Other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation that have been blocked this time include, Wikibooks, Wikisources, Wikiquote, Wikispecies, Wikinews (no Chinese version) and other projects. All these projects are projects to share knowledge, with open copyright as its basic character. They have nothing to do with harmful information, and nothing about them violates the current laws of our nation.

Wikipedia and its related projects strictly abide by open copyright agreement, and the vast majority of its content has been written on the initiative of volunteers around the world. Part of its content comes from old editions of books whose copyright protection has expired. In addition, there is also open copyright content from some Web sites. Because it strictly abides by the relevant copyright policies, the phenomenon of intellectual property violations doesn't exist at all in Wikipedia and its related projects.

Because its of its open content and copyright, Wikipedia has attracted numerous users. From the start of this project in 2002, its ranking on Alexa has been rising continuously. Now, it has already become a prominent and a very important source of information for internet users around the world. Wikipedia not only has won the recognition of ordinary users, but the academic world also increasingly regards Wikipedia as a source of information. I once conducted a search with Wikipedia as a keyword on the China Periodical and Journal Web site, which covers a portion of the Chinese academic periodicals published in China, and found more than ten academic papers as a result. The China Digital Science Library established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Library, and the Chemistry Portal Web site established by the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, both list Wikipedia as an electronic data source Web site.

Given the nature, content and influence of Wikipedia and its related projects, I believe the blocking measure against Wikipedia is inappropriate. In an age of increasing economic and information globalization, facing a global knowledge-sharing project with open copyright and content and whose influence is growing daily, the more effective approach is not to reject it at the nation's borders but to actively participate in it. By blocking Wikipedia, we lose a chance to present China's voice to the world, allowing evil cults, Taiwan independence forces and others to control the development of relevant material in the project, and to present a distorted image of China. We lose a chance to share academic knowledge with the world, and as users, a channel to gain information, a channel that is continuously gaining in importance. Such an act is no different that cutting of our tongues and shutting our eyes and ears. It is closing and locking up the country in the age of the Internet. I hope the relevant departments can verify the content and nature of Wikipedia, and stop blocking it as soon as possible.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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