China blocks all language editions of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia ahead of 30th anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown

  • Beijing has broadened its block of Wikipedia to include all language editions
  • Chinese language version was blocked in 2015 but other editions were available 
  • June marks 30 years since the army used force to suppress Tiananmen protests
  • Authorities in China often ramp up censorship before sensitive anniversaries

Authorities in China have blocked all language editions of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia's owner said today, ahead of the country's most politically explosive anniversary.

'In April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China,' Samantha Lien, spokeswoman for the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, said in an email.

Previously, most editions of Wikipedia - besides the Chinese language version, which was reportedly blocked in 2015 - were available.

Authorities in China have blocked all language editions of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia's owner said today, ahead of the country's most politically explosive anniversary

Authorities in China have blocked all language editions of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia's owner said today, ahead of the country's most politically explosive anniversary 

The 1989 massacre, which is also known as the 'June Fourth Incident', remains a major taboo in China and any form of public commemoration of it is strictly prohibited

The 1989 massacre, which is also known as the 'June Fourth Incident', remains a major taboo in China and any form of public commemoration of it is strictly prohibited 

'After closely analysing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm Wikipedia is blocked across all language versions,' Lien said.  

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites have long been blocked in China.

Individual Wikipedia articles about sensitive issues, such as 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the Himalayan region of Tibet, have long been blocked in China, however, even while the main site is accessible.

Suspicion of a total block on Wikipedia surfaced in late April when some Chinese internet users took to social media to complain that the site was no longer accessible. 

A celebrated image of a man trying to stop the tanks entering the square in Beijing

 A celebrated image of a man trying to stop the tanks entering the square in Beijing

Tests run by GreatFire.org revealed that the site had not been accessible from within China since April 23.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, which oversees China's internet censorship, did not respond immediately to a faxed request for comment.

Since 2015, Wikipedia's Chinese-language site was blocked by China's 'Great Firewall', which prevents internet users from accessing certain foreign websites.

Versions in other languages, however, have largely remained accessible, albeit with occasional interruptions.

Lien said the Wikimedia Foundation had not received any notice that would explain why the block had been imposed.

'When one country, region, or culture cannot join the global conversation on Wikipedia, the entire world is poorer,' Lien adds.

This June will mark 30 years since the army used force to suppress the pro-democracy protests centred around Tiananmen Square

This June will mark 30 years since the army used force to suppress the pro-democracy protests centred around Tiananmen Square

'Blocking access to all language versions of Wikipedia for internet users in China is just symbolic,' he told AFP. 'It symbolises the fear that the Chinese authorities have of the truth'

'Blocking access to all language versions of Wikipedia for internet users in China is just symbolic,' he told AFP. 'It symbolises the fear that the Chinese authorities have of the truth'

Internet authorities in China often ramp up censorship before major political events or sensitive anniversaries. 

This June will mark 30 years since the army used force to suppress the pro-democracy protests centred around Tiananmen Square.

The massacre, which is also known as the 'June Fourth Incident', is a major taboo in China and any form of public commemoration of it is strictly prohibited. 

'At the end of the day, the content that really matters is Chinese-language content,' said Charlie Smith, the pseudonym of one of the co-founders of Greatfire.org, which tracks online censorship in China.

'Blocking access to all language versions of Wikipedia for internet users in China is just symbolic,' he told AFP. 'It symbolises the fear that the Chinese authorities have of the truth.' 

A song by Hong Kong pop icon Jacky Cheung (pictured) has been removed from Apple Music in China due to its association with the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown

A song by Hong Kong pop icon Jacky Cheung (pictured) has been removed from Apple Music in China due to its association with the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown

Last month, a song by Hong Kong pop icon Jacky Cheung was removed from Apple Music in Chna due to its association with the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The song 'The Path of Man' was missing from Apple Music's China service as well as streaming platform QQ Music, according to Hong Kong Free Press. 

This month marked the 100th anniversary of the May 4th movement, which began as student protests against imperialism but quickly grew into widespread protests against the government. Authorities have long played the element of political liberalism in that movement.

Later this year, China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

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China blocks all language editions of Wikipedia ahead of 30th anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown

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