Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Web `enemy' China forces Wikipedia clone to close

AFP , BEIJING

A Chinese online encyclopedia has closed down due to government pressure as China continues to crack down on Internet information it sees as dangerous, an international rights group said.

e-Wiki, a collaborative Internet encyclopedia modeled on the hugely successful Wikipedia, closed itself down late last month, Reporters Without Borders said in a statement received yesterday.

e-Wiki decided to close after it called Taiwan the "Republic of China" and posted information on James Lung (龍緯汶), a Hong Kong activist who is close to the banned Falun Gong movement, the press watchdog said.

"It is regrettable that government threats forced e-Wiki's editor to censor himself," Reporters Without Borders said. "We understand that he felt in danger in the current context, as the authorities have significantly stepped up their control over online publications."

A notice on e-Wiki's now otherwise non-functioning Web site appeared to confirm the media watchdog's assertions.

"We all aspire to freedom, but we live in the embrace of the motherland so we have to be subjected to relevant restraints and cannot cause trouble for others," the notice said. "e-Wiki has temporarily shut down and we apologize for the inconvenience."

Wikipedia has been blocked in China since late last year, although a similar but heavily censored online encyclopedia was launched by popular Chinese Web portal Baidu this year.

The Chinese-language version of Wikipedia, which relies on voluntary users and contributors, was enjoying soaring popularity until Beijing blocked access to the site.

The government maintains a tight grip over information flow on the Internet, fearing it could sow the seeds of thoughts and ideas it regards as dangerous.

Reporters Without Borders ranks China 159th on a list of 167 countries in its global press freedom index and describes the Chinese government as an "enemy" of the Internet.

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