Search Terms ‘Today’ and ‘Tomorrow’ Blocked on Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Cheryl Knobel

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Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging website, has been censoring photos, memes and words ranging from "big yellow duck" to "tank" to "tomorrow" after the Chinese authorities forbade discussion of the 24th annniversary of the violent Tiananmen Square crackdown, in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of peaceful protesters were killed. Yesterday, censors began removing candle icons that appeared to express grief over recent farmworker deaths, the South China Post reports, and then expanded their censorship to any mention of the anniversary: On Tuesday, Sina Weibo took action to prevent … 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.On the streets of mainland China, The Telegraph reports that some activists are still trying to be heard: In the lead up to this year's anniversary Chinese activists waged a two-month online campaign calling on citizens to take to the streets of mainland cities wearing black clothes as a silent memorial to those who were killed. Hu Jia, a well-known Beijing activist, said wearing black and talking part in a "citizens walk" would allow people to express their sorrow without facing the potentially serious consequences of protesting. But there were no reports of major protests in the capital or elsewhere on the mainland. ‘Beijing is heavily guarded today,’ Mr Hu said. ‘More than three people wearing black shirts together will be blocked and suppressed.’ On Tuesday morning, Tiananmen Square itself was open, albeit swarming with undercover agents and security forces. A group of journalists from Hong Kong were reportedly detained for around one hour and told to delete their footage.China has improved economically over the last decades, providing more freedom in education and careers, but has stayed stagnant politically. The Atlantic reports: In 1989, Chinese citizens lacked the right to vote, could not freely criticize the government, and faced restrictions on whom they could worship. China's press was under the strict supervision of the government and promoted no viewpoints in opposition to Communist Party power. In 2013, Chinese citizens still can't vote, freely criticize the government, or worship whomever they please (just look at what happened with Falun Gong). And while the Internet has brought forth a wider range of viewpoints, open criticism of Communist Party rule is still not tolerated.In what has become a sort of yearly tradition, the U.S. State Department sent its annual call on China to release those protesters jailed 23 years ago and provide a public account of the June 4 and 5 events. China responded with a statement instructing the United States "to stop interfering in China's internal affairs." This anniversary will pass like others before it—with the only major public acknowledgement of the events coming from those outside of mainland China. In Hong Kong’s Victoria Park today, tens of thousands assembled in the rain for a candlelight vigil to both honor the anniversary and protest China's leadership. The annual gathering in Hong Kong, hitting a record number of 180,000 last year according to organizers and attracting 150,000 this year, is one of few ways Chinese in Hong Kong can voice their anger over continued censorship and human rights abuses in mainland China. The New York Times summarizes the continuing crackdown: Twenty-four years after the bloodshed, China’s Communist Party has honed its response to the unwelcome anniversary: detaining and silencing dissidents and bereaved families who hope to observe the day with mourning; mobilizing extra police officers to ensure that no protests break out around Tiananmen Square; and scrubbing Chinese Internet sites of any references and images that refer to or even hint at the upheavals of 1989.

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