China censors social media, Internet to squelch Tiananmen Square anniversary

Less than a week after Google unveiled a warning system to alert Chinese users of possible Internet censorship comes the news that the Chinese government have blocked all Internet access to search terms relating to today’s 23rd anniversary of the country’s brutal suppression of political demonstrations, perhaps best remembered for the Tiananmen Square protests.

The Guardian reports that the terms “six four,” “23,” “candle,” and “never forget” have been blocked on some sites, with users on the Sina Weibo social network being told that search results for any of those phrases cannot be displayed “due to relevant laws, regulations and policies.” According to the Globe and Mail, even the Chinese word for “today” – “jintian” – was a banned search term on some social networks, while other terms were allowed but only return politically approved material, including an article that claims that the Tiananmen Square massacre is “a myth”. Furthermore, posts made on the service are also being censored or deleted, and users are being prevented from changing display photos for the day in order to suppress any attempt to commemorate the anniversary visually.

As should be expected, the attempts aren’t entirely successful. One Sina poster managed to comment that “It’s that day again and once more numerous posts are being deleted,” while other complained that their posts were being “harmonized” – a censorship-friendly euphemism for censored, amusingly – within minutes of being posted. “There can be no social stability if people cannot speak out and must live in terror of punishment,” wrote one commenter on the Weibo social network.

This isn’t the first time that social sites in China have undergone this kind of censorship on the anniversary of the massacre. Last year, protestors appeared to defeat censors by referring to the anniversary as “May 35” instead of “June 4,” but this year even that non-existent date has been added to the list of blocked terms.

The strangest of the blocked search terms may have “Shanghai Composite,” added to the list after the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 64.89 points yesterday, mirroring the date of the protest and massacre (6/4/89). While Chen Ji, spokesman for the Shanghai Stock Exchange said that he “didn’t see anything abnormal in the market,” Chinese University of Hong Kong history professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam called the coincidence “mind-boggling.”

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