A goal of local Wikipedians is to translate English-language entries into Chinese for mainland viewers. 'On Wikipedia, information isn't monopolised by a minority but belongs to the whole world,' says Terence Yuen Chi-wai, who contributes entries on outer space. 'I'd like to bring information to the people of China.'
Yuen's plan hit a wall - a firewall - in October when the central government blocked the online encyclop?dia from the more than 100 million internet users on the mainland. On sites such as that for the International Herald Tribune, censors bar those entries deemed to be inappropriate or harmful. But with Wikipedia, the entire site has been blocked.
Whereas search companies such as Yahoo! and Google have made deals with the authorities to gain access to the mainland's huge internet market, contributor Lawrence Lo Wing-kei predicts that the encyclop?dia, which is run by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, won't compromise.
'If the policy is changed, Wiki won't be the same,' he says.
Fortunately, Wiki founder and foundation president Jimmy Wales shares that view. 'We will not do any Google-type deal which would compromise the independent judgment of our volunteer editors,' Wales writes in an e-mail.
But Wikimedia hopes to lobby the central government to lift the block. 'We're trying to contact the appropriate authorities to request an unblocking,' he says. Mainland residents can still access the encyclop?dia through mirror sites outside the country, although the average user is unlikely to go to such lengths. But for the sake of those who do, Lo and his friends will keep adding Chinese-language entries.
'We're trying to write from a neutral point of view,' he says. 'We're not writing political messages.'
It's an argument the central government isn't buying.