Tiananmen Square crackdown

Censors fight Shanghai bourse's loaded message

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am


'Shanghai Stock Exchange' was yesterday added to a list of sensitive phrases blocked on mainland microblog searches after Shanghai's composite index closed down 64.89 points - indicating the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, which was being commemorated.

Searches for the Shanghai index on Sina Weibo, a popular mainland microblog, returned a message saying that 'according to the relevant regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed'.

The index opened at 2,346.98 points and the figures were widely circulated among internet users, who remarked on the 'creepy' coincidence as they sought creative ways to evade tighter online censorship. Mainland censors had attempted to block online discussion of the anniversary of the events of June 4, 1989.

Sina Weibo's censors yesterday blocked searches for terms including 'six four', 'date of 4', 'June', 'today', '23', 'candle', 'tank,' 'Tiananmen' and 'never forget', widening already extensive efforts to silence talk about the most sensitive anniversary on the mainland.

But some internet users managed to beat the censors. A few pictures of the 1989 protests were posted on weibo: most of them used euphemisms or symbolic pictures and phrases.

The 'tank man photo', showing a man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Beijing on June 5, was posted yesterday morning but removed soon afterwards.

But some subtle postings escaped censorship. Movie director Jia Zhangke posted four symbolic photos, including one of a burning car and another of a group of students in a huddle. Photos featuring plastic toy tanks were censored after being widely reposted.

Simplified characters that look like tanks also appeared online. You looks like a tank from above, zhan from sideways, and dian looks like a tank crushing people.

Posts such as, 'It's a special day, a legal anniversary that everybody should remember' and 'Flowers and candles are in our hearts' were not removed because they contained no sensitive words.

Since the weekend, internet users have posted the lyrics of Bloodstained Glory, a popular song commemorating those who died during the June 4 crackdown which has been sung during annual memorial events in Hong Kong. The article 'In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen' by famed writer Lu Xun, was also posted. Liu was one of the students killed in a protest on March 18, 1926, in front of warlord Duan Qirui's headquarters in Beijing.

Yao Jianfu, a retired official, said the anniversary was like a heavy stone on people's hearts. 'They have to try all kinds of means to vent their grievances at this moment,' said Yao, who recently wrote a book containing interviews with Beijing's mayor at the time of the crackdown, Chen Xitong.

Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based internet analyst, said of yesterday's online outpouring that 'internet users have launched an unprecedented collective remembrance of this sensitive event on Sina Weibo ... It looks like a way to protest'.

Sina Weibo was being heavily monitored, with some users complaining that the posting function was suspended due to 'internet problems'.

The microblogging service quietly removed the candle icon from its collection of 'frequently used emoticons', replacing it with an animated London Olympic torch icon. It also prevented users from changing their display photos in an apparent attempt to stop them from posting any photos commemorating the anniversary.

Dai Qing, a writer and veteran journalist, said technology would allow people to push back against censorship. 'People, especially those born in the '80s and '90s, speaking out [now] suggests that the common aspiration of the people cannot be blocked,' Dai said.