Once again, China has marked the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown by going to ludicrous extremes of control and censorship.
Yesterday, WeChat users discovered that they were unable to send their friends a digitalhongbao containing either 64.89 yuan or 89.64 yuan. Instead, sending those amounts resulted in an error message:
While HK prepares for its annual #June4 vigil, Mainland China is met with blanket censorship on #TiananmenSquare – WeChat users can’t even send any red packet valued 89.64 or 64.89 yuan pic.twitter.com/iLQzNGrVp7
— Nectar Gan (@Nectar_Gan) June 4, 2018
Of course, the numbers 64 and 89 have become taboo in China because they evoke the date June 4th, 1989, when PLA troops and tanks were ordered into Beijing to quell a student-led, pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square. The death toll of that night is something that may never be known, with estimates ranging from several hundred to several thousand people killed.
The numbers are always heavily censored on Chinese social media and elsewhere. Memorably and mysteriously, the Shanghai stock index fell by 64.89 points on June 4th, 2012, setting Chinese censors scrambling.
Yesterday, Twitter users from around the world marked the 29th anniversary of the “June Fourth Incident” by striking a pose in honor of the iconic “Tank Man,” while the US State Department released a statement calling on China to finally come clean about the crackdown, and tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the dead.
Meanwhile, in mainland China, the occasion was met with the usual combination of silence, security, and censorship. On Twitter, Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the nationalistic tabloid theGlobal Times, argued that what happened on June 4th had “become a historical event that no longer haunts today’s China.”
“We don’t mention the incident any more so that the whole Chinese society can get out of the shadows and look into the future without being mired in arguments,” Hu wrote.