Conflict & Justice

China cracks down for Tiananmen anniversary


People take part in a a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2012 held to mark the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are believed to have died when the government sent in tanks and soldiers to clear Tiananmen Square, bringing a violent end to six weeks of pro-democracy protests.



Sources say hundreds of activists have been rounded up around China to keep them from marking the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, a violently suppressed uprising that took place on June 4, 1989 when protesters were fired up by government troops.

The BBC reports that a dozen activists are still in jail following a mellow day in the square, but the U.S. yesterday called on China to commemorate the anniversary by taking responsibility and "provide a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families," according to State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner.

Unsurprisingly, Internet searches and messages on Twitter-esque site Sina Weibo were restricted through the weekend and into today, and a handful of words and phrases have been censored, including anything about the stock market or chatter marking the twenty-third anniversary of what is referred to in China as "the June Fourth Incident" or "June Four."

Even emoticons, specifically the symbol for a candle and any related words were blocked. The candle is often used as a symbol of mourning by Chinese netizens who use emoticons or images to convey messages they don't want government censors to see (ie: sunflowers when referencing dissident Ai WeiWei). When the image of the Olympic torch replaced the candle, it was blocked as well, in accordance "relevant policies and laws."

"Creative dissenters then began posting photos of clocks and watches indicating the time when the crackdown on the Tiananmen student protesters began," according to Shanghaiist, which added that those, too, were quickly deleted. 

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou issued a statement that centered around the need for further democratic reforms in China, specifically citing long-standing issues with Taiwan and compared Tiananmen Square to Taiwan's "white terror," the name for the period of martial law that lasted until the late 1980s. 

The president spoke about the importance of the bonds of trust between people and governments, and a responsibility to support and cooperate with each other, pointing to recent steps forward in relations between China and Taiwan. 

Surveying history, we see that in conflicts between governments and people which end in bloodshed, governments, as the public authority, must assume the heaviest responsibility. The existence of a government is dependent on the people’s trust. When it resorts to use of armed force against the people, it is not only the people that are hurt; the trust between the government and the citizenry is also damaged, and recovery from such an event takes a long time. In such situations, therefore, governments must bravely face up to this reality and, with the utmost patience and tolerance, take steps to rebuild trust.


Here's a Storify of some tweets about action in China.

[View the story "#Tiananmen " on Storify]