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Wikipedia is as contentious as you’d expect when it comes to China

You’ll say “yeah, that makes sense” when you read this: Wikipedia is messy when it comes to China (and especially China’s actions in Hong Kong).

Wikipedia acts a starting point for people wanting to learn about almost anything. It sets a frame of reference for people: you decide to read up on, say, the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests, and you skim over the Wikipedia article with that exact name.

You might read on from there, you might not, but that article becomes your default view of the matter (even if it’s just a vibe).

That makes Wikipedia a first draft of history when it comes to current events.

Shiroma Silva, reporting for the BBC, has said that the platform has “turned into a war of words between Wikipedia editors who are pro-democracy and those who are pro-Beijing“.

Matters came to a head in September when Wikipedia’s governing body banned seven active pro-Beijing editors and removed the administrative powers of a further 12.

Those involved were accused of bullying and intimidating editors who had a pro-democracy stance.

People in the pro-Beijing camp say this means “narratives relating to China and Hong Kong” will prioritise a western POV.

The “edit wars” are focused on issues about Hong Kong and mostly on the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia (occasionally spilling onto the English version).

“Pro-Beijing people often remove content that is sympathetic to protests, such as tear gas being fired and images of barricades. They also add their own content,” says a Hong Kong-based editor named “John”, who wanted to remain anonymous because of fears of intimidation.

“Pro-democracy editors tend to add content to shift the balance or the tone of the article, but in my experience, the pro-Beijing editors are a lot more aggressive in churning out disinformation,” he says.

Of course, the Chinese government blocks Wikipedia. People within the country use VPNs to access and edit the site.

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