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Authorities block access to online encyclopaedia

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called on the Chinese authorities to stop blocking access to the website of the independent online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, whose popularity has been growing steadily in China. The site has been unavailable in several provinces, including Shanghai, since 18 October.

This latest online censorship paradoxically comes at a moment when China is openly raising the issue of democracy by publishing its first white paper, entitled, "The construction of political democracy in China" on 19 October.

The subjects tackled in the paper include human rights and grass-roots democracy in urban and rural areas, yet blocking the site of a free encyclopaedia to which anyone can contribute is a clear violation of the right of Chinese citizens to information. The censorship comes amid a series of new regulations adopted in recent months aimed at further tightening controls on online free expression.

The authorities are censoring Wikipedia much the same way they have censored thousands of websites with information that strays from the official Chinese propaganda on issues such as Tibet and human rights in China. Internet users trying to visit the Wikipedia site since 18 October get an error message referring to temporary connection problems for unknown reasons.

Wikipedia was previously blocked by the Chinese authorities in June and September 2004 because of dissident political content (see IFEX alert of 28 September 2004).

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