Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square Vigil Gets Creative

Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square Vigil Gets Creative
People walk with candles to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, outside Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2021 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

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China’s censorship apparatus goes into overdrive every year as the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre nears. So it wasn’t surprising that the Chinese internet, particularly the virtual private networks that are used to scale the “Great Firewall,” saw a spike in disruption last week. This year, however, the censorship was taken to a new extreme, with the social media platform Douban preemptively silencing influential accounts by suspending their ability to post in the lead-up to Friday. And the popular startup Xiaohongshu is being investigated by Chinese internet regulators for an innocuous post on the social media platform Weibo on June 4 that simply asked, “Tell me loudly, what is the date today?” Its account, which had 14 million followers, was promptly suspended.

The Tiananmen Square massacre is such a sensitive chapter in contemporary Chinese history that those in the mainland who dared to challenge the sweeping ban on commemorating it were detained by authorities over the smallest acts of remembrance, such as holding a lone protest urging the world to pray for China or retweeting archival video footage of the celebrated “Tank Man,” whose defiance in front of a row of tanks moving through the square the day after the massacre has become an iconic image of protest.

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