China PARTIALLY unblocks Wikipedia

The good news: The Wikipedia block in China is partially lifted

The bad news: The Chinese version is still not generally accessible, and the Western media reporting has been poor

Editor & Publisher magazine put out an article October 11 saying:

“The online interactive reference site Wikipedia announced Tuesday that the site had apparently been made accessible in China, after being blocked for just over a year by the country’s government. “

Well not quite correct. Reports started coming in on October 10 from different parts of the PRC, saying that the English Wikipedia was now accessible. A friend using an open Wifi in Beijing emailed me saying he could suddenly start using Wikipedia again. Some folks in Hubei said it was still blocked. Shanghai and Guangdong users said parts were accessible.

From a Beijing China Netcom’s residential DSL connection, the English language and other foreign language versions are now accessible, but the Chinese version is still blocked (

It’s important to know there is no monolithically operating Great Firewall of China, even though it is a cute and useful moniker.

The “GFW system” depends on a distributed system of checks and filters that depends on the particular ISP, the type of connection being used, and the geographic locale. A commercial connection in Hubei is different than a residential DSL in Guangdong is different than an academic network in Shantou. Something blocked in one area of the country may be totally fine in another. A keyword that is filtered in one place could be allowed in another.

So for folks in China’s tech circles, it’s pretty frustrating seeing blanket “China blocks” or “China unblocks” declaration without specifics or accurate reports.

Filtering also happens on different levels between the domestic network and the greater Internet, so even though Wikipedia is generally accessible in English, it’s still subject to:

  • URL-level filtering – host header or keyword in URL rejected
  • Text-stream level filtering – offending keyword in Web page

More info as it arrives, but let’s not forget that for now the most important part of Wikipedia for PRC users – the Chinese version – is still not generally accessible.

UPDATE: After posting this entry, several folks contacted me with some results:

  • China Telecom DSL, Shanghai – en:OK, zh:OK
  • Various ISPs, Anhui – en:OK, zh:BLOCKED

10 thoughts on “China PARTIALLY unblocks Wikipedia

  1. Well, it’s no longer blocked here in Xinjiang! Hooray. (Both the English and Chinese sites are available, at least for the moment.)

  2. Pingback: WikiAngela » Partial unblock of Wikipedia in China

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