By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard, Reuters
BEIJING–China’s censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” on popular microblogs on Monday after the index fell a bizarre 64.89 points on the anniversary of the bloody June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. In another twist, the Shanghai Composite Index opened at 2346.98 points on the 23rd anniversary of the killings. The numbers 46.98 are June 4, 1989, backwards. “Whoa, these figures are too freaky! Very cool!” said a microblogger. “The opening figure and the drop are both too creepy,” said another.
For China’s ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remains taboo, all the more so this year as the government prepares for a tricky leadership handover.
Terms related to the anniversary, such as “six four” for June 4, “23,” “candle” and “never forget,” were blocked on Sina Weibo, the most popular of China’s Twitter-like microblogging platforms. Users encountered a message that said the search results could not be displayed “due to relevant laws, regulations and policies.” “It’s that day again and once more numerous posts are being deleted,” a Sina microblogger wrote. Sina was not immediately available for comment. The anniversary of the date on which troops shot their way into central Beijing in 1989 has never been publicly marked in mainland China. The government has never released a death toll of the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand. “Tragedy that Should Have Been Averted”
Microbloggers decried the overzealous rash of censorship, complaining that their posts had been “harmonized” — a euphemism for censorship — within minutes. Censors also prevented microbloggers from changing their display photos in an apparent attempt to prevent them from posting any photo commemorating the anniversary. Yet some people did manage to beat the censors, and a few pictures of the 1989 protests did find their way on to Weibo. “There can be no social stability if people cannot speak out and must live in terror of punishment,” a microblogger commented on one of the photographs. Yao Jianfu, author of a new book of interviews with Chen Xitong, the Beijing mayor at the time of the crackdown, told Reuters that Chen had said “this was a tragedy that should have been averted but wasn’t.” “I never foresaw there would be shooting, because Mao Zedong said that ordinary people should not be shot at and suppressing student protests comes to no good,” said Yao.