Beijing still shows extreme sensitivity to the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. China's version of Twitter is censoring everything from today's date to the word 'candle.'
For the 23rd year in a row, the Chinese authorities today continued their efforts to impose collective amnesia about the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, seeking to stamp out any public reference to the event.
For Beijing, the date, “6.4” as it has become known in China, is one not to be commemorated, but rather obliterated from the calendar. The government has always refused to discuss what happened when soldiers were ordered to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators on Tiananmen Square. Officially, they killed only about 200 protesters; but activists’ estimates range from several hundreds to several thousands.
The official blanket denial of the date has worked, to a large extent: Few ordinary Chinese citizens under the age of 30 are aware of the Tiananmen demonstrations or their tragic end. But censors remain determined to foil any attempt by people who do know what happened to say anything about it. Anything at all.
Censors at Sina Weibo, the popular Twitter-like social media platform, were working overtime to block searches for – or references to – “6.4” or other obvious signifiers such as “tank,” “crush,” “never forget,” and “square.”
“535” was a forbidden term, too, because Internet users have taken to referring to May 35, instead of June 4. Classically minded censors wouldn’t let you post anything with VIIIIXVIIV in it either, in case readers familiar with Roman numerals could decipher 89.6.4. And by late afternoon, even the word “today” had been banned.