China Bans Wikipedia in All Languages Ahead of Tiananmen Square Protest Anniversary

The site has been banned in Chinese since 2015, but has been expanded ahead of the June 4th anniversary.

Wikipedia has been blocked in China since April this year. The Wikimedia Foundation has confirmed that all language options of the site are no longer accessible anywhere in the country. The Chinese version of the site had been banned since 2015, but this has now been expanded to include all languages.

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The ban was spotted by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation on the internet. The network says the ban is being enforced by means of DNS injection and SNI filtering. Wikimedia says it was not notified of the ban.

Countries ban Wiki to exercise control 

In response to the news the foundation made a statement saying: "In late April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China. After closely analyzing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm that Wikipedia is currently blocked across all language versions."

Wikipedia is a free open source, community-edited encyclopedia. It has been banned by authorities in many countries around the world at different times. Turkey banned the site in 2017 and in recent months the encyclopedia has been intermittently blocked in Venezuela.

Tiananmen Square protests loom 

It is unclear why China made the move to block foreign language versions the site now, but some observers are drawing links between the movie and the proximity of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. In 1989 protesters called for democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

These led to a violent crackdown by government forces. Accessing information about the events on June 4 are typically blocked in China. However, once Wikipedia switched to HTTPS it became much harder for censors to see which pages individuals were accessing.

Activists find new ways

A blanket ban on all Wikipedia sites seems to be how China is dealing with the issue. China has been active in suppressing internet speech and political action. Twitter is technically banned in the country but some users with VPN still use it, but the government has been harsh on anyone using the social media platform to criticize the government.

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The blocking of Wikipedia is potentially more damaging as it makes a trove of knowledge unrelated to political ideas inaccessible to the population.

The Me Too movement was effectively squashed on social media in China but activists got around the hashtag ban by combining the characters for rice and bunny together which “Rice bunny” (米兔), which is pronounced as “mi tu”. Online activists were able to use emojis representing rice and bunny to expose instances of sexual harassment.

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