Wikipedia’s neutrality ‘hugely impaired’ after ban on Chinese mainland users: WMC insider
Published: Sep 18, 2021 01:50 AM
File photo:CGTN

File photo:CGTN

The Wikimedians of Mainland China (WMC), a Wikipedia-editing enthusiast group from the Chinese mainland, hit back against the Wikimedia Foundation after a number of the group's leading members were banned or deprived of administrative rights by the foundation.  

An insider of the volunteer-led group, who requested to be anonymous, told the Global Times on Thursday that the "office action" of the foundation has "significantly changed" the "political landscape" of Chinese language Wikipedia, and "hugely impaired" the neutrality of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that is edited by volunteers and hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. 

The WMC will release a second open letter soon to further elaborate the impact the action has made to the whole Chinese Wikipedia community and how the foundation's "well-calculated suppression" of mainland editors had been nurtured by anti-China forces, following the first letter issued on Wednesday, said the insider. 

The Wikimedia Foundation said in a notice Monday that it had banned seven users and removed the administrative rights of 12 others for "infiltration concerns" after "long and deep investigations" into activities surrounding some members of the group. 

The insider pointed out what is left unmentioned in the foundation's notice - the vast majority of Wikipedia editors affected in the action are pro-Beijing or "okay-with-Beijing" and often side with the mainland community. Most of them are from the Chinese mainland, with others from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the island of Taiwan, who are all "not anti-Beijing."

After the exclusion of these users, there will be hardly any administrators or bureaucrats who can give a verdict when there is a disagreement within the user community on Chinese language Wikipedia that is willing to "take on" those "anti-China" editors, said the insider. 

Maggie Dennis, vice-president of the foundation revealed that it had been investigating the infiltration of Chinese language Wikipedia for nearly a year, reported BBC News on Thursday. 

However, according to the WMC's first responsive letter, the "office action" came without advanced notice or hearing the defendants, saying the so-called "investigation" is based on no solid evidence but potentially driven by reports of the secessionists of Hong Kong and Taiwan or anti-communist people within the Chinese language Wikipedia user community, where there are often competing views over certain entries, especially those that are related to politics. 

Yan Enming, a Chinese Wikipedia administrator and WMC leader who was also banned by the foundation in the incident, told the Global Times on Thursday that their actions have greatly disappointed him and other users affected, who have contributed a lot to Chinese language Wikipedia.  

"But cutting our ties and giving up hopes on the Foundation costs nothing to us since we had never been receiving help from them anyway," Yan said.  

The experienced Wikipedia editors are currently seeking to create a new encyclopedia, one that is of their own and has more flexibility and choices after the foundation, which has been imposing "arbitrary barriers" for Chinese mainland users, broke up with the group, he said.

In the open letter, the WMC encouraged other Chinese mainland editors to fight against the obstacles created by the foundation and to keep on contributing to Chinese language Wikipedia for themselves, but not contributing for the foundation's benefit.

China blocked the Wikimedia Foundation's application for observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization in September 2020.

According to a report from the Wikimedia Foundation, China's objections were resulted from the foundation's incomplete application, and the "political activities" it was carrying out "via the volunteer-led Wikimedia Taiwan chapter."