The recent block of Wikipedia access within the mainland People's Republic of China (see archived story) continued this past week. Meanwhile, new information began to appear, suggesting that PRC internet regulators may be using this opportunity to support the launch of a fork of Wikipedia content. At the same time, technical workarounds for the block have been devised, although reports indicated that they were not effective for very long.
On 29 October, Ting Chen (User:Wing on the Chinese-language Wikipedia) pointed to the existence of www.wikicn.com, a site calling itself Wiki China that has copied much of the Chinese Wikipedia. The copying extended to user and talk pages, but gave no indication of the source and apparently did not comply with Wikipedia license terms. Reportedly some politically sensitive pages were excluded. Investigation showed that the domain was registered to an address in Dallas, Texas, but the site host's IP address indicated that it belonged to a Chinese ISP and traffic was being routed through China Telecom.
Both Ting Chen and Andrew Lih indicated that the timing for this site's appearance was, as Lih put it, "an interesting coincidence." The site was reportedly renamed from sopai.org just a day or two after Wikipedia was blocked. Ting Chen provided an update on 30 October, indicating that someone had apparently vandalized Wiki China and posted about it on the Chinese Wikipedia. However, attempts to access the site tend to produce errors, and the possibility was mentioned that it may be preventing access from non-Chinese IP addresses.
Wiki China's home page apparently indicated that it receives some kind of government support, which combined with the timing raises the possibility that this may be related to the blocking of Wikipedia. On the two previous occasions where Wikipedia has been blocked in the PRC, plausible explanations for the action have been found. One came near the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, while the second incident apparently was fallout from the shutdown of a political BBS. In this case, however, no such reason is evident, thus fueling speculation about possible hidden explanations such as the Wiki China connection.
A technical measure to deal with the block against Wikipedia was found for a brief period over the weekend. This took advantage of the recently added server cluster in Korea provided by Yahoo. Developer Tim Starling indicated on Sunday, 30 October, that he had deployed load balancing using Linux Virtual Server for the cluster's squid cache, which had the effect of changing the IP address. Since traffic from East Asia goes through the Korean cluster, this would potentially make Wikipedia accessible from mainland China again.
Starling reported that he had subsequently tested access to Wikipedia using a looking glass server in Beijing. Reports coming from actual Wikipedia users in mainland China confirmed that this was briefly successful, but apparently the PRC then blocked the new IP address as well. Starling added that the IP address change was made for technical reasons, not as a deliberate attempt to circumvent the block, since this might jeopardize petitions to have the PRC restore access.
Meanwhile, since this method has not proven effective, Wikipedia users in the PRC can resort to other options, such as the Tor network. Starling has also written some instructions on how this can be done, since Tor proxies are frequently banned to prevent vandalism.