Because Wikipedia has ended up at the center of China's sights on Taiwan

Because Wikipedia has ended up at the center of China's sights on Taiwan

Beijing has opposed the entry of the most important online encyclopedia because it does not recognize Taiwan as its province

Photo: Ercin Erturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images The virtual battle between China and the Wikimedia Foundation, which it oversees, resumes the digital encyclopedia Wikipedia. The foundation's entry as an observer to the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo) has been blocked. And Wikimedia claims it was China's fault. It is not the first time. In the past, the People's Republic of China had already said no to candidacy.

It had happened to be exact in January 2020, when it was "the only country to officially oppose", reads a note from Wikimedia Italia , which points out that several member states of Wipo, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the Holy See and several countries of the European Union, had expressed their support. But to accept the candidacy the vote must be unanimous.

The Taiwan case

Wikimedia argues that the reasons presented by China "consist in insinuating that Wikipedia-related projects contain a large amount of incorrect content and favor disinformation regarding the policy of the One-China-principle “, that is, on relations between Beijing and Taiwan. These accusations are always rejected by the foundation. In particular, already in 2020 Beijing's attention had focused on the Taiwanese chapter of Wikimedia, led as happens elsewhere by independent volunteers. The People's Republic of China considers Taiwan (or the Republic of China) to be part of its territory and considers it a "rebel province".

Its de facto independence, recognized by only 15 countries in the world (no Europeans except the Holy See), remains an open wound for Beijing and a thorn in the side for the Communist Party, which aims at reunification by 2049, the centenary of the founding of the People's Republic after the victory in the civil war that led the Guomindang nationalists to take refuge in Taiwan. But attention around the fate of Taipei, as well as the military pressures of the People’s Liberation Army around the Strait, have been rising more and more recently. After the squeeze on Hong Kong, the next goal in the path of "national rejuvenation" is to settle the Taiwanese issue in one way or another.

In addition to military maneuvers, which include forays into space by air defense identification (whose existence is not recognized by Beijing), there are also diplomatic and coercive ones in relations with third countries, institutions and organizations. As is the case with Wikimedia. On the other hand, China's role on the global stage has grown exponentially in recent decades. Not only at an economic and commercial level, but also at a geopolitical level, with evident reflections in its weight within international organizations. And now Beijing wants its story to be "told well" and therefore information or denominations to follow its narration or what it considers "the truth".

Historical frost

But that relations between China and the owner of Wikipedia were not idyllic, it was also known beyond the Taiwanese aspect. Just a few weeks ago, the world's largest free encyclopedia expelled seven moderators linked to the Wikimedians of mainland China group (which has about 300 members) on charges of controlling information in Chinese interests. An accusation that the foundation had made clear was not directed at the Chinese state, but only at the individuals involved in the internal investigation, who responded by speaking of "baseless slander".

Wipo is involved in developing international treaties on copyrights, patents and trademarks. Activities that may also have an impact on the ability to freely provide information in different languages ​​in digital format, as Wikipedia currently does for hundreds of millions of users around the world. "Our exclusion creates a worrying precedent for other organizations, with or without profit, who are committed to promoting access to information, culture and education," said Amanda Keaton, general counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation. We renew our appeal to the members of Wipo, including China, to approve our candidacy ".

" We work every day to bring copyright closer to the needs of all people, those who seek information on Wikipedia and participate to write it and improve it. We are saddened that the Wikimedia Foundation cannot officially join the group of observers who protect the general interest of free knowledge at Wipo, "said Iolanda Pensa, president of Wikimedia Italy. The foundation has already said that it will try again in 2022, but with these premises, finding a synthesis with Beijing will not be easy.

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China Copyright Hong Kong Wikipedia globalData.fldTopic = "China, Copyright, Hong Kong, Wikipedia "

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