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I've been desysopped

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By Anonymous
The Signpost firmly believes that the views of all sides in the recent banning and desysopping of editors from the Chinese mainland should be presented. We asked an editor currently in good standing on both en.Wiki and zh.Wiki to explain what he and some of his fellow mainland Chinese think about the current situation. We thank him for his courage in expressing his views. These views are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of The Signpost or of other Wikipedians. This piece was edited for length and grammar and a minor reordering of a section.

I am one of the administrators desysopped on the Chinese Wikipedia on 13 September 2021 by the WMF Office account.

First, I would like to introduce myself. I come from mainland China and have been living abroad for several years. I only write articles, anti-vandalism, patrol new articles on Wikipedia. I never edit the disputed articles and never edit warred with others. I am a hardworking Wikipedian. I think these are the reasons why dozens of users supported me to become a sysop a few years ago.

I also care about Wikipedia's community development. I have joined two Wikipedia introductory meetups in China. As I have long lived abroad so I attended a few Wikipedia meetings where I live. At the same time, I also help new users in the Chinese community. It doesn’t matter which community I work with. And I have to say, the community or user group are not political parties. Anyone may join or leave without disclosing their political views.

I was shocked on 13 September by the WMF Office action which desysopped me and other admins, and banned 7 other editors. I don’t know what my guilt is. When another sysop sent an email to to ask for details, the WMF replied that they don’t want to explain the reason now, and won’t accept an appeal. So the sentence "Questions can be directed to" in the log is just dark humour. When Maggie Dennis published her statement on Meta she said, her statement contained "ambiguity". "The security risk relates to information about infiltration of Wikimedia systems, including positions with access to personally identifiable information and elected bodies of influence", Dennis claimed. I really don’t understand how a sysop can influence personal security. We are not CheckUsers. The BBC published a report saying "Wikipedia blames pro-China infiltration for bans". Does that mean the WMF Office action has a political purpose? So our articles about Chinese history, culture, ancient architecture, are a type of "infiltration". That’s ridiculous.

I am extremely disappointed with the WMF now. Sysops on the Chinese Wikipedia who do the most work, got the most scolding, and finally were desysopped and even banned by the WMF Office. This terrible action is unprecedented and unbelievable. I won’t trust WMF anymore, today they desysopped me, tomorrow they may globally ban me as well.

I’d like to return to my off-Wiki life now and don’t want to attract attention.

What do other mainland Chinese think about the bans? We're a diverse group, so there may be many opinions. But there is a very long published open letter from WMC [Wikimedians of Mainland China – ed.]. I'll summarize what I consider to be the most important parts that I most agree with.

Many people may know, Wikipedia cannot be accessed normally in Mainland China. So when I first accessed Wikipedia via a VPN, I worried about it. But nothing happened. No Wikipedian I know has been admonished by the Chinese government. And the government never declared our meetings illegal. The government must know that we are just a group of volunteers who contribute knowledge. WMF banned 7 users and desysopped 12 administrators in an office action, WMF has accomplished something that the Chinese government didn’t manage to do. We try to enable more people to participate in editing in Wikipedia, we built mirror sites, we created tutorials, we develop communities. The Foundation has never shown compassion or support for us. Now we have to believe WMF wants to abandon China, they don’t care about us. I had free pizza because WMF pays for communities outside China, but when I was in China, everyone paid for their own food. When we were developing the community, we spent everything out of our own pocket, the WMF paid nothing, from VPN to coffee. But we were still happy because we weren’t here for politics, we were here to write actual articles and have fun. China has ⅕ of the world’s population, WMF’s budget was 100 million dollars a year, but WMF spent nothing and cared nothing about us. They were willing to pay for mobile data for Wikimania attendees, but not VPN for us.

They found a nonsense excuse, "canvassing", to take action against us. In their eyes, it’s only democratic when the vote goes their way; when a candidate they dislike won the election, they want to "stop the steal." These sysops either are good at writing articles, or good at anti-vandalism. They do practical things, they don’t gossip in the village pump. WMF never asked us for information before the bans, why do they trust the informer, how do they determine that this is not framed? Most admins who were desysopped had their RFAs years ago. How could these RFAs be fine for years, while the WMF just now announce that they were rigged?

WMF banned or desysopped 14 admins, this takes up one-third of all active admins on zh.Wiki. Does WMF insist that a third of all admins who were recently active on zh.Wiki were all "infiltrated" by the Chinese government? This is a crazy view. The most active admin on was banned. Four of the top 10 admins were either banned or desysopped. This is ridiculous and they don’t care if there will be maintenance work backlogs or vandalizers and long-term abusers celebrating one-third of all admins are suddenly gone.

This leaves a huge gap for maintenance work on zh.Wiki, since a third of all admins are absent now. Because newbies from mainland China use VPNs to edit and suffered IP blocks because Wikimedia’s policy to block proxies, they have to apply for IPBE (IP block exemption) to edit and they can’t register a new account on their own, they have to write an email to an admin to have them register an account for the newbies. However, I have heard from newbies that many of them haven’t heard back from the admins for weeks, because the admins who were working on registering new accounts and assigning IPBE for newbies were desysopped, too. Unless you think all mainland Chinese editors are "infiltrators", this disproportionate office action hurts the mainland users.

Maggie Dennis has no vision for developing Wikipedia in China. She mentioned nothing for future community development, saying she wanted to connect to the "international Chinese community". Other WMC members also share their emails with WMF and AffCom to me, and they often complained to me that WMF and AffCom rarely write back, and a reply usually takes more than a week. WMF and AffCom never contacted us asking if we need any help considering Wikipedia’s blockade in China or if we had any trouble with the government, and they only contact us when something very bad happened.

There is also a bug that only happens when someone is editing on VPN. This bug logs out the person’s account whenever they click the “save changes” button, so they can’t save any changes unless they change their device. Mainland Chinese admins had reported this bug to Phabricator over a year ago, but WMF still hasn't fixed it [Phabricator:T244635 – ed.]. IPBE and the bug are burdens that WMF can solve from their side, and it can improve mainland Chinese’s editing experience, but they still refuse to do them.

After this office action, there will be almost no pro-Beijing or okay-with-Beijing admins and bureaucrats on zh.Wiki. Its neutrality is going to suffer a huge hit, because the balance between the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan admins are broken. WMF didn't consider that the people who gossip to them had a political motivation to attack pro-Beijing and okay-with Beijing admins. WMF is calling a normal political view "infiltration" and voting blocs as "vote canvassing".

I know it was the Chinese government who blocked Wikipedia in China and I should express my dissatisfaction to them. But I think many of the points I made are irrelevant to the Chinese government. They didn’t send police to disturb our meetings, didn’t arrest anyone (anti-Beijing editors included), and VPN is cheap and convenient to use. However, WMF didn’t help us with money, didn’t fix bugs, didn’t improve the MediaWiki system, didn’t reply to our emails, didn’t ask if we are okay after Wikipedia was blocked, and they finally banned us and desysopped us. That is why I am angry with the WMF.

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There is no "mainland China". Using that as a part of your group's name is inherently political and pretty explanatory toward your group's purpose. There is the country of China and there is the country of Taiwan. They are two separate countries. SilverserenC 23:32, 26 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Aren't Hong Kong and Macau typically not considered as being part of Mainland China, despite being recognized as a part of the PRC? — Mikehawk10 (talk) 00:57, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
^ I really don't think the OP was trying to be political. --Firestar464 (talk) 01:07, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
  • I was referring to the WMC group in general, not OP. And the group existed back before Hong Kong was a part of China. But I guess Macau applies. Do we have a lot of Wikipedians from Macau where you'd have to differentiate Chinese Wikipedians from it? SilverserenC 01:36, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
    I'm not sure I understand: the return of Hong Kong to China predates the founding of Wikipedia. Are you referring to some other event? isaacl (talk) 01:51, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Yep, when the government of Taiwan give up the Chinese elements in the constitution and his title of "Republic of China", at that time, it should really reconsider the political entity relationship between mainland China and Taiwan. --Cwek (talk)

I think that some members of WMC really contribute to the Wiki movement. Some editors can indeed write good entries involving local content, but there seems to be radical nationalism and coterieism that plague WMC. I think this may lead to some innocent scapegoats. --Cwek (talk) 01:50, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]

I'm glad to see the Signpost give a forum for the WMC users; that said, this read just like half of the outraged blocked users I've ever seen. "The WMF gave no reason why I was de-sysoped! [... a couple paragraphs later ...] I was de-sysoped for canvassing, but that's just because they didn't like the winner of the vote! [... and later still ...] The WMF didn't actually know or care about anything going on, but some tattletales complained and they broke the sacred status quo for them!"

I don't know much about or have personal experience with this issue, but I feel like I've heard this song many, many times before in different contexts... --PresN 02:00, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]

This article disgusts me - WMC members don't seem to spend a minute to reflect themselves, but outright recycle their old talking points and try to paint themselves as the only legitimate mainland Chinese wikipedian group, gaslight other wikipedians. Let me be CRYSTAL clear to my fellow wikipedians: They're not. In zhwp, wikipedians across mainland China, HK/MO, and TW despise them. WMF has also made this clear, it's not about political views, but their actions fundamentally trying to undercut the foundation of wikipedia.

But more than anything, I'm deeply disappointed in Signpost allowing such a biased Op-ed to be posted. Yes, I'm posting this using a puppet, in fear of being subjected to similar doxxing and smearing, but Signpost is not a talk page, unless you're whistleblowing something, an Op-ed shouldn't be anonymous.

And WMC is not a representative of mainland Chinese wikipedians, not in the past, not now, and won't be in the future. At the end of day, they should face the music. Fremoy (talk) 02:42, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Just some quick facts.
  1. A zh-wiki administrator (bureaucrat) was banned from leaving the Chinese border, likely due to participation in international or inter-regional Wikipedian activities.
  2. A Chinese netizen got administrative punishments from public security officers. [for vising Wikipedia – A.]
  3. As the previous comment from Fremoy mentioned, some of the leading members in WMC threatened to report ("jvbao") Hong Kong Wikipedians to the national security forces.
  4. WMC has always claiming to be representatives of mainland Chinese Wikipedians (even in their statement after the WMF movement), while many mainlanders prefer not to participate.
  5. Most WMC members disclosing their political standings are pro-CCP, and most of those who disclose their support for CCP are radical supporters.
  6. The title of their statement is Throw away illusions and prepare to fight, which coincides with Mao Zedong's essay attacking intellectuals escaping to Taiwan in 1949. The second-to-last paragraph of the statement containing the aggressive sentence "fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again...until [we get the] victory", which also coincides with a sentence repeated in Mao's essay.
--Yangwenbo99 (talk) 03:03, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
To add to many mainlanders prefer not to participate -- the initial target of questionable actions by WMC's members (no, WMC wasn't formed yet) was not non-mainlanders, but other mainlanders who disagreed with their Shanghainese faction, mainly the WUGC members. See zh:User:PhiLiP/WMCTimeline and Boxun report, both in Chinese but likely okay through machine translation.
Still, I should note that the op does not report any WMC affiliation and that the desysop decision appears pretty blanket-ish – appearantly anyone with an irregular positive RfA vote is affected. I believe that the OP can re-apply and likely regain sysop after the pause on RfA is lifted. –Artoria2e5 🌉 03:55, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Heck, I would say that if I was someone that was accidentally caught up in this, I would still be glad for it happening as a whole due to it getting rid of the known bad elements from the community. A price worth paying and all that. SilverserenC 03:57, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]


I think it was a mistake on the part of the WMF to speak of "infiltration". "Infiltration" makes it sound political, as though any mainland Chinese editor/admin is, by definition, an "infiltrator" rather than a volunteer, i.e. someone whose very presence is undesirable just because of their nationality. It's easy to see and portray that attitude as prejudiced.

It would be better for the WMF to stick to purely behavioural points (threats of outing etc.), just as is done on-wiki – comment on the edits, not the editor. That would keep the conversation from going off-track.

Lastly, I appreciate being able to read the viewpoint expressed in this op-ed in the Signpost. --Andreas JN466 20:20, 27 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]


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