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Qiuwen - Wikimedians of Mainland China

Drop the illusion and prepare for the fight - a comment on the Foundation's region-wide lockdown of Chinese Wikimedians and Maggie Dennis's "statement"

Posted by Qiuwen on September 14, 2021 in Drop the illusions, prepare for the struggle - A comment on the Foundation's region-wide targeting of Chinese Wikimedians and Maggie Dennis' "statement" 

[This commentary, by Lu Zu, takes the form of an open letter and will be translated into English shortly.]

September 13, 2021 will be remembered by all Chinese Wikipedians.

The Wikimedia Foundation has locked out all Chinese Wikipedians, including members and liaison members of my group, for no apparent reason, and has removed the administrator and administrative privileges of many more Wikipedians. This decision was made by the Foundation at the instigation of some people in the Chinese wiki community, without any consideration, without listening to the views of the community, and without any basis for believing the slander of a small group of people.

It is no accident that the Foundation has decided to take action at this point in time. The Foundation has torn off its mask of hypocrisy towards us, and indeed towards the entire mainland Chinese community, and has revealed its green fangs. Following the Foundation's decision, the perpetrators of this farce are rejoicing that their imagined greatest rival, our own Wikipedians of Mainland China (WMC), has been knocked off - just as they were four years ago when they were region-wide locked out at Watchtower Ai Meng.

The Chinese government and the Communist Party of China have been criticized for blocking foreign websites and suppressing Wikipedia's development in China. But the Foundation has done what even the Chinese government has failed to do - the Chinese government has not stopped us from organising meetings or events, and has not declared our grey area, university club-like organisation an "illegal group". Zero Wikipedians have been arrested, threatened, or in any way obstructed by the Chinese government, and the Foundation has banned seven people and removed the administrative powers of 12 others with a single move.

These people have done the dirtiest and toughest work in China, a country where Wikipedia has been blocked until now, to grow the community to its current size. Now, they have to be slapped backwards and bitten back by the Foundation.

The Foundation has clearly learnt its lesson from when Fram, the administrator of the English Wikipedia, was banned in 2019. At that time, Fram's administrator was pulled from his post and was also banned from the English Wikipedia. This caused an uproar in the English Wikipedia community at the time. The Foundation never dreamed that the community would react so strongly to the banning of Fram. The foundation may have had an external PR team, but they didn't realise that it was the community that needed PR the most. It took the Foundation over a month to put out the fires in the community. Even though the vast majority of the English wiki community objected to the Foundation's forced involvement in the community, the Foundation did not budge: the Fram, who had his administrator privileges removed for no good reason, was not reinstated after weeks of protest and opposition from the community.

We know that there are many people in the community who care about us, who want Wikipedia to be unblocked in China, who want the Wikimedia movement to grow in China, who recognise the efforts and even sacrifices that WMC has made for the development of Wikimedia in China, or at the very least, who think that the Foundation should not have banned so many administrators overnight and without warning. You may also be under the illusion that the Foundation has the possibility to admit its mistake or to retract their decision. The truth, dear friends, may have disappointed you. Like you, we hope that today is just a nightmare. However, I am here to give you a precautionary note: lose your illusions and prepare to fight.

Having seen what happened with Fram, this time the Foundation accompanied the lockout and de-prioritisation with a "statement" in an attempt to obfuscate and justify its unjustified actions before the community could react. This "statement" by Maggie Dennis, the Foundation's community development officer, also officially sounds the death knell for the Wikimedia movement in mainland China under the Foundation's leadership - I'm not saying here that the Wikimedia movement is dead in China, I'm saying that the Foundation I am saying that the Wikimedia movement under the leadership of the Foundation is dead..

The Wikimedia movement is much more than the Foundation: it is about opening up one's copyright, respecting the copyright of others, being willing to share, treating everyone with courtesy, and so on. This is the reason why many mainland Wikipedians have abandoned Baidu and switched to the wiki. Wouldn't you like to have an entry for every protected cultural heritage unit in mainland China? Wouldn't you want China's astronautical centres to disclose the copyright of their images like NASA does in the US? Don't you want to use the keyboard in your own hands to document your own hometown and your own profession? This is the purpose and the original intention of writing the wiki, this is what the Wikimedia movement is all about. The Foundation, on the other hand, should only be a handyman, helping to fix the server. The Foundation has done very little to help the development of the Wikimedia community in mainland China in any way. Our gatherings, our "editathon" and our "Wikimedia loves China" events are all our own efforts, and we don't take any money from them. We don't owe anything to the organisation that rides over the heads of the volunteers, and we don't need to have anything to do with them as we continue to fight. Rather, we can certainly thrive without the shackles of the Foundation. We continue to develop in the true spirit of the Wikimedia movement; and the Wikimedia Foundation is not necessary for the development of the Wikimedia movement.

Mainland China, arguably the most unique place to develop Wikimedia, also faces the most unique pressures. Our first priority is to ensure that mainland Wikipedians have proper access and editing. With the help and support of the WMC, we have helped to open up access to QQ mailboxes to receive emails from the wiki system, we have provided free wall servers and mirror sites, pushed for a relaxation of the threshold for applying for IP Blocking Exemptions (IPBE), and created tutorials on walling and applying for IP Blocking Exemptions. "tutorials. There have been countless other gatherings and "editathon" events.

We have done a lot of down-to-earth work for the mainland community. However, the Foundation has never shown any compassion or support for the mainland Chinese community, and when the Chinese Wikipedia was blocked in 2015, before the WMC was established, the Foundation issued a "statement" in 2019 when all language Wikipedias were blocked. The "statement" "condemned" the Chinese government, and so on and so forth. But has the Foundation done anything practical other than issue a "statement" with its mouth? Nothing. We bought the wall software ourselves, the mirror site is our own server, and the "IP blocking exemption" is only added in layers, and you are going to do some "IP masking" to make it more difficult for administrators to distinguish proxy IP addresses. Also, if the development of Wikipedia in mainland China is as dangerous as you say in your "statement", then isn't the statement issued by your foundation "condemning" the Chinese government pushing us mainland Wikipedians into the fire? We are doing the most "dangerous" work in China, and you want to destroy our community and our user groups in turn.

Some of you may be thinking, "Since WMC has been branded as an "illegal organisation" by the Foundation overnight, I can just create another one! You are so naive. The Foundation has been ambivalent about developing mainland China (or even giving any help to mainland users). But in Maggie's "statement", the Foundation's attitude is clear - they are abandoning mainland China. In the "statement", Maggie says

Speaking of removing administrator privileges, we hope to be able to contact Chinese speakers overseas in the near future ...... to ensure that people do feel safe when working on the Chinese Wikipedia.

See? That's the only thing in Maggie's "statement" that is even remotely relevant to the vision of the mainland community, apart from the polite words. The Foundation wants to abandon China, that's all. The Foundation may have grand ambitions of its own, "to be the infrastructure of knowledge for all mankind", but for China, which has a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's internet users (you could say China is a "local area network", but at least it has the infrastructure to access the internet), they just gave up. Leaving aside the consequences of letting overseas Chinese whose Chinese language skills have deteriorated dramatically and whose words don't make sense write Chinese Wikipedias that create nothing but piles of G13 entries, isn't the abandonment of mainland China worth talking about? I don't know whether Maggie is saying that it is because the Chinese government has blocked Wikipedia that it is "unsafe" to contribute to wikis on the mainland, or that it is because of the existence of our "triad" organisation, the WMC, that it is "unsafe" to contribute to wikis on the mainland. In the former case, I hope that the Foundation will immediately withdraw its statement "condemning" the Chinese government; in the latter case, I hope that Wikipedians who have attended our WMC gatherings will come forward and tell us whether it is safe to attend WMC gatherings or not, and whether anyone has a hard time when someone says at a gathering "I don't want to join the WMC, I want to stay independent".

The Foundation has abandoned mainland China. They don't care if our community lives or dies. I don't know what the Foundation's Vision 2030 plan is, and I don't know where their steering committee is going to steer the ship, but it certainly seems to be "as far away from China as possible". Despite the fact that China's NGO Law has clear procedures for setting up branches, and despite the fact that there are still private non-institutions and other types of organisations in China, the Foundation simply gave up without even trying. If the world was shocked when Google withdrew from China in 2009, and a commercial company gave the Chinese government the middle finger, in contrast, the Wikimedia Foundation announced its withdrawal from China in 2021, the core of which was sandwiched in the middle of a "statement" that did not even dare to acknowledge it explicitly.

I hope that Maggie will come out and rebut my misinterpretation of her "statement". Please come out and tell us how to develop the wiki in mainland China in the future, and tell us whether the foundation is giving up on mainland China because the wiki is blocked. This way, after the fall of our WMC, the next group of mainland Wikipedians can take two steps less.

There is much to say in Maggie's 'statement'. Due to space and time constraints, I will continue in the next few open letters. There are, however, two other points that I must make in my first editorial since the event to set the record straight. One is that Maggie's "statement" desperately tries to belittle the status of my group, repeatedly using the term "unrecognized user group" and even "unrecognized group" throughout the statement. unrecognized group", emphasizing that our group is not recognized by the Foundation's Affiliation Committee (AffCom). This use of Maggie's "statement" is extremely confusing and gives the impression that our WMC is informal.

I should mention here that our WMC is far more active than many, if not more than half, of the user groups recognised by the Foundation. This year alone, we have had four or five online 'editathons' and four or five public gatherings across China. We are not recognised because we have not formally applied for your recognition. According to the Foundation's rules, a user group can be recognised if it has at least three members and has been active for a year. We have 300 people in the WMC and have been active for over four years, so we have been recognised by AffCom hundreds of times. We did not apply for AffCom recognition because China's NGO Management Law restricts us from being recognised as a branch of a foundation and therefore unable to carry out activities in China. In other words, we are deliberately not recognised by your AffCom. In contrast, when we discussed with AffCom between 2017 and 2018 whether there was a way to skip the "you have to be a recognised user group before you can be upgraded to affiliate", AffCom's discussions with us were ineffective, did not respond to our emails for weeks, and were full of bureaucracy --We reckon that this was partly because there was still the Wikimedia User Group of China (WUGC), a dead group that had been occupying the seat of a recognised user group in China but was never active. They didn't bother to look into it, so they just pretended they couldn't see the emails and delayed it again and again. In the end, we gave up communicating with AffCom and started to develop community activities such as parties instead of asking for AffCom's recognition.

This is one of the reasons why I think that the Foundation, encouraged by some people, has finally gone after us at WMC - we are finally clear of the Foundation, and we can finally give up all our illusions about the Foundation and focus on the development of the mainland wiki. In order to set up a branch of the Wikimedia Foundation in mainland China in accordance with the NGO Management Law, we would need, let's say, the Foundation's business license on the US side and other documents. With AffCom's efficiency of only answering one email in a few weeks, how long would we have to wait? According to the original plan, we were caught in the middle of the Chinese government and the Wikimedia Foundation, and we had to serve both sides, meeting all the rules and regulations of the Foundation, such as "the user group must be established for one year", "the user group must be recognised before it can apply for a chapter", and so on, as well as the business licence required by the Chinese government. Now that we are no longer connected to the Foundation, we can do whatever we want.

This is one of the reasons why we have such a problem with the Foundation and AffCom, because so far it has been the Foundation that has stuck us, been inefficient, and refused to give us the materials we need, while the Chinese government has never come out to stop or harass us. We would like to blame the Chinese government for the NGO Law, but the problem is that the foundations don't even give us the materials, so we don't even have a chance to complain to the Chinese government. If our plan to set up a branch organisation had been rejected by the Chinese government, then we would have accepted that we had at least tried, and we would not have been so hostile to the Foundation.

Another thing in Maggie's 'statement' that we must point out right now is that it refers to what we at WMC are doing on the Chinese wiki as 'community capture' (community capture). Maggie uses the Croatian Wikipedia as an example. The Croatian Wikipedia, as is typical, is full of entries by neo-Nazis and the like because of community issues. I'm sure you know that the Japanese Wikipedia entry for "Nanking Massacre" is called "Nanking Incident (1937)" instead of its Japanese equivalent "Nanking Massacre". What? And the Japanese wiki entry for "Nanking Incident (1937)" doesn't even have a picture of Chinese people dying. The Croatian language is even worse than that.

But the problem is that I still don't understand how we "seized the community". "Taking over the community" is one of the key accusations against my WMC in Maggie's "statement". As I understand it, they think we are hijacking the community, that we are in charge of the whole community, and that we are "canvassing" (the term "canvassing" appears repeatedly in Maggie's "statement" and in the "warning emails" of those who had been "warned" by the Foundation for no good reason).

First of all, thanks to the Foundation for the lift. Before the Chinese wiki was blocked from mainland China in 2015, the last valid statistics showed that the Chinese wiki was split between mainland Chinese editors, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, each accounting for about a third of the editors and visitors. We at WMC are called the Mainland Chinese Wikipedians User Group, and it took more than a third of the people scraped from the sky to allow us to dominate the community? I don't even know how WMC does it. I was in a hurry to write this open letter, so I didn't have time to delve into it, but I was under the impression that the number of "neo-Nazi" editors in Croatian must be more than half, right?

The Foundation (and the people behind it) are still making the same old accusations against the WMC, but it is clear that because the WMC has always considered those unfounded accusations to be worthless, they assume that the WMC has no grounds to refute them. The accusations of "canvassing" against the WMC in Maggie's "statement" are pure nonsense. Leaving aside the fact that "canvassing" has long been in line with Chinese Wikipedia's guidelines, and was only officially banned earlier this year - how does your foundation come to control something that is not even banned by local guidelines? Furthermore, what evidence do you have that canvassing actually happened? Because of irregular voting results? And should I show your foundation a few examples of other user groups and chapters that we at WMC think are canvassing? (Save that for the next open letter.) Maggie's "statement" and some of WMC's editors perpetuate this accusation of WMC canvassing as if they were extreme Republican supporters who voted for Donald Trump in last year's US presidential election. At the time, they were screaming "Stop stealing [votes]!" at polling stations because they thought the vote was abnormal, but in fact it was Biden who won those states. But the problem is that the mob that broke into the US Congress on 6 January succeeded and Trump was re-elected.

These people who scream about democracy are the most anti-democratic of all. In their eyes, it is only democratic when the vote goes their way, and when they vote for a candidate they don't like, they are told to "stop stealing".

The administrators who were removed and banned across the board were all elected through a formal, democratic process. Some of them had been administrators for several years, only for the Foundation to suddenly come out and remove their administrator privileges. Is the Foundation saying that these elections several years ago were unjust? Why is the Foundation dragging its feet on removing the rights until now? Has the Foundation seen evidence of the use of stooges and real-life puppets? Why did the Foundation, for some of them, only de-prioritise and not ban the whole area? Is it because they are "close, but not too close" to the WMC? And in that case, what is the practical purpose of removing their access? Is it to force them to have a "fair" election again?

The Foundation and the people who started this fiasco can fabricate all the evidence they want that we are canvassing, harassing, etc. They can say that they only target WMC as an organisation and users who are, by their supposed standards, closely associated with it. But no matter what they say on the surface, the real target behind them is the mainland wiki community as a whole, not us, the WMC, and anyone who doesn't listen to them will be beaten up. I know that there are many people in the community who are not happy with the WMC, but what I am about to say is not about whether you support the Chinese government or not, or how you feel about the WMC. If you are a person of conscience, you will not agree with what the Foundation is doing.

One, the Wikimedia Foundation has an annual budget of $100 million. In at least the past five years, the Foundation has never spent a single penny on mainland China. Nor has the Foundation ever provided mainland editors with wall-wall servers, wall-wall tutorials, mirror sites, and any other tools that could be implemented outside of China that would facilitate their editing (you may have heard that Google, Microsoft, and other companies have no walls in their Chinese branches), despite the fact that the NGO Management Law states that the Foundation cannot fund activities inside China; the Foundation has not taken the initiative to adapt its servers so that they can bypass the GFW blockade ; nor has the Foundation made any fixes to the MediaWiki software to improve its operational processes so that editors can contribute via a proxy server. Although the Foundation has a number of lawyers, they are probably too busy raising money or dealing with US politicians. This is because, as far as we know, the Foundation has never had a lawyer study the NGO Management Law to see if there is a viable path in the Chinese policy environment. Let me repeat: the Foundation's annual budget is $100 million. Zero dollars of that is spent on the Chinese community.

Secondly, knowing that Wikipedia is being walled and that there may be difficulties with contributions from mainland Chinese editors for "white left" reasons, there is a user group called WMC that is active but not yet recognized by AffCom, and it is unlikely that the Foundation and AffCom are unaware of WMC's existence. The contact details of the WMC have also been publicly available on the site page. However, the Foundation is outwardly "concerned" about mainland users (just read Maggie's "statement" and the statements made by Foundation staff in public, but without being held accountable for what they say), but never in any way concern for mainland users. We at WMC have never received an email from the Foundation or AffCom asking us if we need any help with our situation. One email came from them asking "I heard that the wiki is being walled in China, are you having any trouble? Do you need any help?" I'll count them as having made an effort.

Thirdly, users who use proxies to edit the wiki may encounter a bug known in the community as "auto logout", which we suspect may be related to the handling of proxy IPs in cross-project bans and cross-site cookies. This bug is likely to be encountered by one in five newcomers to the mainland. Now the bug is at a level where no one cares about it at all, and it does not even have the triage needed to fix it as a first step.

Fourth, roughly twelve hours have passed since the first foundations acted and this open letter is being written. During these twelve hours, from my own investigation and from reports and communications from other users, it appears that all known users who have been locked out, debarred, or "warned" for unfounded reasons were not aware of this news in advance, nor have they been contacted by the Foundation. I don't care how you do it. I don't care how you conduct your so-called "investigation", you don't have any solid evidence, you don't even give people a chance to explain or debate, you just cover everything up as much as you can. The Foundation does not consider in any way whether the people who reported and submitted the so-called evidence behind the scenes have any conflict of interest with the WMC, or whether their political ideology is so "Hong Kong-independent", "Taiwan-independent" and "anti-communist" that they need to suppress the WMC, which is politically neutral in terms of policy, but whose editorial team is actually biased towards supporting Beijing. I need to point out: these people, whether they are de-prioritised or region-wide locked, are better at writing entries and countering sabotage than at wheedling and sniping.

Fifth, according to my rough statistics, according to the ranking of admins' activity on XTools, the top thirty active non-robot admins (meaning those who handle site affairs and other site contributions) on the Chinese wiki ranking, ten, or one-third, have been de-privileged or domain-wide locked. One-third! And four of the top ten most active administrators have been de-prioritised. This includes the most active admin from Hong Kong, "Buggy Fly". What are you going to do about the site administration mess? The Chinese Wikipedia is not a small project, and the amount of work it has to do and the amount of work it has to do is considerable. What is your foundation going to do about it? Have you researched it before you go ahead? Have you considered the consequences?

At the end of the day, I'm sure there are some newbies, especially those who have just made dozens or hundreds of edits, who want to ask: "If the Foundation is so uncomfortable with the mainland community, why are we still writing a wiki?"

What I want to say to you is: you are the future of the mainland community. We write about the wiki because we agree with the idea of sharing and opening up the wiki, and we write for your home town, your profession and what you love, not for the WMC or the Foundation. Tell everyone with your practical actions that the mainland community is not made of clay, and the more they suppress, the more we resist. It is time for you to stand up for yourself. Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again ...... until victory!

In closing, I, on behalf of the Wikipedians User Group and the Wikimedia community in mainland China, would like to shout out to the Wikimedia Foundation: our door is always open, and it is your foundation that is not willing to talk to us. If there are problems, we can discuss them; if there are misunderstandings, we can clear them up. If you want to discuss issues on an equal footing, we are ready to do so. We all have a weighing scale in our hearts. You are doing it, the community is watching.

On Tue, Sep 14, 2021 at 7:05 AM William Chan <> wrote:
Hi all,

Of course I am not from WMCUG, but they issued a statement regarding the series of serious office actions:

Of course there is an link so as not to , you know, they may just take down:

Interesting to see if they really translated this to English.

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