The Wikimedia Foundation, the owners of Wikipedia, just confirmed that all language editions of Wikipedia have been blocked in China since April 2019. It will now join thousands of other websites that users cannot access in China.
At first, China banned only the Chinese Language version of Wikipedia. But the country has now extended the block to all languages Wikipedia comes in, causing a total ban of the site. However, Wikimedia said it did not receive any notice from the Chinese government before they carried out this action.
There have been articles on Wikipedia about sensitive issues in China. A big one is the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square and the Himalayan region of Tibet. These articles had, however, been inaccessible from the site in China prior to this move.
The foundation through a spokesperson, Samantha Lien, said in a statement,
“In late April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China. After closely analysing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm that Wikipedia is currently blocked across all language versions.”
China usually makes moves to ramp up Internet security and censorship just before major political events or sensitive anniversaries. This time, there are speculations that the upcoming event might be the reason for this move. June 2019 will make it 30 years since the army used force to suppress pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square.
4th May 2019 also marked the 100th anniversary of the 4th May movement. It began when student’s protests against imperialism grew into a nationwide protest against the government. China will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding fathers later in the year.
China is not riding solo because this is not the first time this is happening. Other countries have intermittently blocked the free-to-edit encyclopaedia. Turkey was one of such countries. It blocked the site back in 2017. Venezuela has also intermittently blocked it this year already.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram join other social media sites already blocked in China.