Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 4, 2014


June 4 marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Chinese censors have been working overtime in the weeks and days leading up to June 4. At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner has a post (linking to this Hindustan Times article) looking into the ambitious efforts by the Chinese government to block or delete all references to the Tiananmen Square or June 4. (“Web users find workarounds such as ‘May 35′, ’63 plus 1’ or homonyms of banned words, though they too are eventually blacklisted.”) See also this piece by Joe Silver at Ars Technica:

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have effectively blocked access to many Google services, including the company’s search engine, image repository, translation services, Gmail, and “almost all other Google products,” according to, an independent censorship-monitoring website, which posted a blog entry about the disruptions on Monday.

The crackdown on Google services in China comes in advance of the sensitive 25th anniversary of the Chinese government’s violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, which took place on June 3 and 4, 1989.

In recent weeks, the Chinese authorities have taken aggressive measures against those seeking to commemorate the events of 1989. The government has detained and criminally charged a number of such individuals. “They’re locking up everyone that they can and blocking everything they can,” Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei, a website that tracks Chinese media developments, told The New York Times.

The Wall Street Journal had a story on Tuesday about the Chinese government’s continued harassment and imprisonment of dissenters — all part of the government’s refined and practiced strategy to “nip opposition in the bud.” From the article (and see also here):

Rights groups say dozens have been detained, questioned or put under house arrest to try to make sure no commemorations are held. The group Chinese Human Rights Defenders puts the number at 50 “detained, disappeared or summoned.”

The capital’s already tight security has been bolstered ahead of the June 3-4 anniversary, and following terrorist violence in other parts of the country.

“They’re grabbing people everywhere,” said Liu Shihui, a rights lawyer who was detained for more than 10 days by authorities in Shanghai and sent back to his hometown in Inner Mongolia last month. Mr. Liu said this was the biggest roundup of activists in China since the sweeping crackdown launched to prevent any spillover from the Arab Spring democracy demonstrations in the Middle East in 2011.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Evan Osnos, a staff writer for The New Yorker, sat for an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, and I noted this bit (emphasis added):

I look at China, and I’m reminded of the fact that in 1989 when these protests happened, you know, the country was so close to the experience of poverty and the experience of political turmoil during the cultural revolution – and I think that really was an enormous ingredient because what the government said in putting down these protests was not simply that we had to do this in order to protect the Communist Party. But what they said to the public in China was, if we did not put these down, all of you will go back to the turmoil that defined the first 30 years of the People’s Republic. And none of you want that.

And that message was incredibly powerful. And I’ll meet young people in China today who will still say that. They say, had, you know – what they’ll say is, I admire the courage of that young man who stood in front of the tank. But I’m glad that he failed because if he had not failed, then I wouldn’t be sitting here with the opportunities that I have. That’s what they’ve been educated to believe, and, for many of them, they have believed it.

Sadly seems to be working, so far.

Update (Thurs., June 5, 2014, 11:45 AM): at Techdirt, Mike Masnick has a post focusing on another segment of the NPR interview with Evan Osnos, noted above. Masnick looks at how the Chinese government has modified and fine-tuned its propaganda strategy since 1989.


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