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12/12/2006
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China Removes Block To English-Language Wikipedia, But Chinese-Language Version Still Blocked

Reporters Without Borders says it's a step in the right direction, and applauds Wikipedia for standing up to Chinese censorship.

People in China can access the English-language version of Wikipedia, which watch groups claim the government censored for a year.

Reporters Without Borders applauded Wikipedia Monday, saying the Chinese government removed a block from Wikipedia in October. The English version is entirely accessible, while the Chinese version remains blocked. The group indicated it was a step in the right direction that came about as the company stood up to censorship.

"We are now waiting for the unblocking of Wikipedia's Chinese version, which is obviously the one that people most want to consult in China," the group said through a prepared statement. "Unblocking just the English-language content is a hypocritical move. The government hopes thereby to appease its critics abroad while continuing to censor the information available to its own population."

The group also used the opportunity to take a swipe at American technology companies that comply with the Chinese government's censorship requests.

"We congratulate those in charge of Wikipedia, especially Jimmy Wales, who could have chosen to censor their own site to get official blessing," the statement said. "Instead they stuck to their principles and spurned self-censorship. Their determination has paid off inasmuch as Beijing has partially reversed its decision. It is an example that other Internet giants could follow."

English language access includes descriptions of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, which resulted in clashes and the deaths of students in Beijing. Estimates range from 200 to 3,000, depending on whether the source is the Chinese government or the Red Cross or student groups.

Reporters Without Borders said that the Chinese government's filtering software, referred to sometimes as "the Great Firewall of China," appears to be ineffective in some parts of China, but the group said that may be due to an upgrade of the government's software.

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