News / Asia

China Snuffs Out Discussion of Tiananmen

Policemen stand on the road at Tiananmen Square on a hazy day in Beijing on the 24th anniversary of a military crackdown on a pro-democracy movement, June 4, 2013.
Policemen stand on the road at Tiananmen Square on a hazy day in Beijing on the 24th anniversary of a military crackdown on a pro-democracy movement, June 4, 2013.
Chinese authorities have taken aggressive steps to snuff out any discussion of the Communist Party’s brutal crackdown of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, even as some tried to mark the 24th anniversary of the bloody incident online and in public.

Each year, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen protests is a sensitive time for authorities in Beijing - who bristle at any criticism of the incident and calls for a fuller official account of what happened more than two decades ago.

Authorities moved quickly this week to block a long list of search topics on social media websites.

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblog service, users could not even post candle icons.  Candle icons are a popular way of expressing grief and have been used widely in recent weeks to mark tragedies such as China’s recent Ya’An earthquake and the Boston Marathon bombings

Some, like Rachel Lu, found ways around the ban. “Instead people have been posting photos of candles to show they remember [the June 4th incident],” she said.

Lu is editor of Tea Leaf Nation, a website that monitors Chinese media.  She said what is remarkable is that many who are posting comments are using their real names.

“They are also coming out and sharing their memories of what happened.  So obviously this is not on an anonymous basis," she added. "They are real people and they are sometimes in very prominent positions in society.”

The government has branded the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and refuses to re-examine what happened.  Instead it focuses on just how far China has come since then.

The long list of blocked search terms, included words such as 'Tiananmen', '64' or 'June 4th' and 'tank'.  When typed into social media search engines, the response would say such keywords were removed in accordance with relevant laws.

'May 35th' -  a clever equivalent of June 4th designed to get around the Internet ban and even 'today' and 'tomorrow' were also among search topics blocked.

One user's postings in the early hours Tuesday included a picture of sky in China’s capital and read: “Beijing’s sky today is as dark as on June 4th of the 78th of the Republic,’ a reference to 1989.  The Republic of China was founded in 1911 at the end of the Qing empire.

Video clip: Tiananmen Square, past and present

Video clip: China Tiananmen Anniversaryi
June 04, 2013 12:14 PM
Chinese citizens remember the Communist Party’s brutal crackdown of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square on the 24th anniversary

Another user complained about how censors had promptly deleted a post about how they were “in a very somber mood.”

The post said, “any time this day approaches, people do not even have the right to grieve.”

Percy Alpha, (a pseudonym) is with GreatFire.Org, a website that monitors Chinese Internet censorship. “Most of the stuff getting around is very implicit, so if you do not know the incident at all, you won’t get the idea ... although it is kind of an improvement, you cannot actually reach the people who know nothing at all about this incident,” he said.

Residents in Hong Kong last year launched a black-shirt campaign to mark the anniversary and activists in China have expressed interest in joining the movement this year.

Beijing-based activist Hu Jia has launched an appeal online, urging people to wear black on Tuesday.

Ai Xiaomin, an activist in China’s southern Guangzhou province said she will do the same.

Ai said June 4th is a day of anguish for those who lost their loved ones and we should share their burden of pain and together call for a true accounting of what happened.

In the past week, VOA has run into numerous obstacles attempting to conduct interviews on university campuses in Beijing and when trying to speak directly with the families of those killed.  The interviews on university campuses, which are typically freely accessible, were completely unrelated to the events of June 4th.

Reporters were blocked and told to go home Tuesday when they tried to visit Wanan cemetery, a graveyard mothers of the victims visit every year.

You Weijie is a member of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of parents, friends and families of those killed.  She said June 4th will never fade from people’s memories.

She said although the government censors the Internet and hinders the media from reporting on it, in their hearts the people will never forget what happened, especially those in Beijing.

Although protests are banned in China, organizers of a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong say they expect a record turnout of 180,000.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ulchi from: US
June 05, 2013 10:04 AM
You can ask Mr. Xi Jingbing directly at Rancho Mirage,California this weekend 11:00 AM Sat. 6/8th/2013.
He may answer your question about Tiananmen 1988.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs