June 4 vigil in Hong Kong

Chinese evade censors, as HK journalists stopped at Tiananmen

A call for unity in Hong Kong comes as many online are remembering the day in veiled references and by posting photos and memes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 10:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

As more than 100,000 protesters are expected to attend the annual vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Tuesday night, mainland Chinese censors have taken several measures to prevent public remembrance of June 4, 1989, online and offline.

Candle icons posted by thousands of people on Chinese microblogs have been censored by Sina Weibo. The images appeared on Monday as a way for people to voice their grief for the scores of workers killed in a blaze at a chicken slaughterhouse in Jilin province.

On Tuesday, Sina Weibo took action to prevent similar expressions of grief for those killed in the armed crackdown against protesters in Beijing 24 years ago.

Dozens of related search terms have been also blocked from microblogs, including the words “today” and “tomorrow”.

Despite the bans, many are remembering the day in veiled references and by posting photos and memes. The number 64, referring to June 4, even made it to Sina Weibo’s most popular search terms, even though no results appeared.

In Hong Kong, organisers of the vigil said it would "show [President Xi Jinping] that Hongkongers are upset with him as new leader". 


5:41pm: In Beijing, more than a dozen security officials were deployed outside the stone gate at the Wanan graveyard in the city’s west which members of the Tiananmen Mothers, a victims’ relatives group, visit each year. English-speaking police officers barred entry to AFP, demanding to see identification and telling a videographer to stop filming. AFP

5:23pm: Speculation on Sina Weibo over leaflets dropped on Tiananmen Square. 

4.58pm: More Tiananmen-art spreading on social media:

4.42pm: Boxun, an exile news agregator, features photos and a video clip of petitioners in Beijing commemorating the June 4 crackdown. 

4.24pm: As references to June 4 are being deleted within minutes on microblogs, netizens share photos of Type-64 Chinese-made pistols.

4:12pm: From earlier today, a Radio Beijing broadcast in English after the crackdown, via the Shanghaiist.

4:10pm: Hong Kong's Journalists Association issues a statement condemning Beijing police behaviour today. 

4:05pm: China's First Lady, currently touring Costa Rica, seen in a photo singing to the troops in Beijing after the crackdown.

3:58pm: "We knew that we couldn't protest publicly, but we wanted to make a statement," said a man surnamed Ou, who participated in an attempted public vigil in Guangzhou today. He said several people were arrested, he was escorted to his hometown in Guangxi Autonomous Region. 

3:43pm: 63 per cent of people in Hong Kong want a reversal of the Chinese government's stand on the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989, according to a Hong Kong University poll published last Thursday

Out of 1,000 people surveyed in the annual poll conducted by the university's public opinion programme, 62.8 per cent of respondents said they supported a "reversion of the official stand on the June 4 incident".

This is the highest percentage since the poll was first conducted in 1997, when just 50 per cent of those surveyed said they supported a reversal.

3.33pm: At least 52 human rights activists, dissidents and intellectuals have been detained in their homes or elsewhere today, according to Shandong 11, Beijing 9, Guangzhou 7. Figure does not include Shanghai. 

3.28pm: "Did you forget? Ask this cow," says a Weibo post, which so far hasn't been deleted.   

2.58pm: Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which is organizing the vigil in Victory Park this evening, said he hoped that 180,000 people would attend the event, as many as he said attended last year's vigil. 

2.41pm: The iconic tank man scene, revisited

The original tank man in action.

2.38pm: “I think all of us, even the new generation in Hong Kong, would have the same feeling that it is a tragedy and also an offence of the government to shoot people like that,” said Richard Choi, the vice chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

“The problem is still not resolved, that’s why Hong Kong people have the same feelings and the same demands as they did 24 years ago.” He said “the way the Chinese authorities interfere with Hong Kong matters” would definitely help push up numbers. AFP

2.35pm: A photo of young students calling for the rehabilitiation of those persecuted in 1989, from 2011, shared by human rights activist Hu Jia. 

2.27pm: Office of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou issues a statement calling on the mainland to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a major UN human rights treaty China signed in 1998. 

2.21pm: The US State Department issues a statement on the anniversary: "We renew our call for China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens; release those who have been wrongfully detained, prosecuted, incarcerated, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest; and end the ongoing harassment of human rights activists and their families."

1.05pm: Wang Dan, a student leader in 1989 now in Taiwan: "Rain in Taipei, heaven is crying". Heavy rain also north of Beijing.

Searches for the words "candle" and "square" are blocked on Sina Weibo.

12.25pm: In Hong Kong, lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan questioned Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for going to Shanghai on Tuesday to “escape from the June 4 issue”.

Leung said he was going to address the opening of the Urban Land Institute’s Asia-Pacific summit, an occasion that he promised to attend as early as last year. He will also meet Shanghai’s Communist Party secretary Han Zheng, and return to Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, more than 30 representatives from the university student alliance Federation of Students finished their 64-hour hunger strike outside Time Square, Causeway Bay, in memory of the students who died during the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

They said they were touched by mainland tourists who stopped by and watched the videos, that they prepared, about June 4.

-Tony Cheung

12.07pm: Early on Tuesday morning, when Hong Kong journalists from TVB, RTHK and Commercial Radio arrived at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to cover the daily flag-raising ceremony, they were approached by public security officers who asked them for their personal identifications. They searched the journalists’ cars, confiscated their car keys and asked them to delete video recordings on their mobile phones.

It was reported that public security officers also took video of what they called a “regular check to enforce the law”, in reference to regulations that Hong Kong journalists in Beijing are now “jointly managed” by the All-China Journalists Association and the exit and entry administration office of the public security authority.

The reporters were allowed to go about an hour later, after the flag-raising ceremony had ended. The ceremony, which starts at about 5am, went on as usual. Many public security officers were stationed in the square while citizens and tourists watched.

-Tony Cheung

Goddess of Democracy photo taken on May 30, 1989 by @lielaine's father. Via Instagram

11.37am: "This place is busier than usual" on foursquare.

11.19am: Perhaps the most-shared photoshopped rendition of the tank man this year is one with Hong Kong’s giant rubber duck. “Rubber duck” has since been blocked as a search term on Sina Weibo.

A cartoon depicting then Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, when he famously told the protesters in the square that he has come too late.

A video shared via China Digital Times:

8964 from sofunny on Vimeo.



The English-language version of the state newspaper Global Times published an editorial arguing that “web regulation [is in the] public's best interest”.

The paper has previously referred to the events in 1989. Other media have stayed silent, however, because coverage has been banned. The Chinese-language version of the Global Times carried an op-ed contribution that argued China “needed gradual change to realise the Chinese dream".

An opinion piece in the Shaanxi-based Huashang Daily read on Tuesday: “As those who are alive, we have to find out why those who died had died, we have to assume responsibility for those who died, we have to guarantee security for those who are alive.” The piece titled “We have to wake up from a historical tragedy” referred to the fire in Jilin province, but many understood it as a veiled reference to the Tiananmen incident.

“The people who are responsible for the great fire have brought suffering to people close to us and people we don’t know, we cannot let this suffering continue,” the article signed by Ma Xiangbin read.

Hundreds of people shared a weibo post by the Xinhua news agency commemorating the first edition of the Communist Party’s very first newspaper 88 years ago. The newspaper’s name was Bloodshed Daily.

Tiananmen Square seen this morning: