China: Annual June 4 Censorship Battle

Yesterday was the annual candle light vigil for commemorating the June 4 Massacre in Hong Kong. Across the border in mainland China, it was a date for internet censorship. The typical censorship measure is the filtering of sensitive words related with numbers, time, memory, places, organizations and names, as listed by Anne Henochowicz from China Digital Time. Below is a partial quote of CDTs long list:

Individual Chinese characters:
• candle (烛): as in [wax] candle (蜡烛), candlelight (烛光); Sina Weibo removed the candle emoticon over the weekend.
• blood (血): as in bloody suppression (血腥镇压), bloody incident (流血事件)
• people (民): as in People’s Liberation Army (人民解放军), democracy (民主)
• movement (运): as in democracy movement (民运), student movement (学运)
• move (动): as in student movement (如学生运动), memorial event (悼念活动), mobilize troops (出动军队)
• government (政): as in Fang Zheng(方政), regimental commissar (团政委), one-party dictatorship (一党专政)
• crush (碾): as in Fang Zheng‘s legs were crushed (方政被碾断双腿), crush and destroy (碾毁)
• tǎn (坦): as in tank (坦克)
• ceremony (祭): as in ceremony for Tiananmen victims (祭奠六四遇难者)
Numerals and Words Related to the Date of the Tiananmen Massacre:
• 8, 8 (八), eight (捌), eight: All forms of “eight” and other forms of the numbers below.
• 9, 9 (九), nine (玖), nine
• 6, 6 (六), six (陆), six
• 4, 4 (四), four (肆), four
• 23, 23 (廿三), 23 (二十三): Today is the 23rd anniversary of the massacre.
• 35, 35 (三十五): Netizens call today May 35th to get around the censors.
Other Related Terms:
• anniversary (周年)
• today (今天): searching for today’s date.
• yesterday (昨天)
• tomorrow (明天)
• that year (那年): netizen code for 1989.
• declaration (宣言): as in “Hunger Strike Declaration” (绝食宣言)
• commemorate (纪念): commemorate 6.4 [as Tiananmen is frequently referred to] (纪念六四), Heroes Monument (英雄纪念碑), etc.
• redress (平反): recall 6.4
• Victoria Park (维园): An annual candlelight vigil is held in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen massacre.
• park (公园)
• recall (追思)
• mourn (悼念): as in mourn 6.4
• silent tribute (默哀)
• evening event (晚会)
• black clothes (黑衣): Netizens called for people to walk in the streets wearing black clothes to remember Tiananmen.
• go into the street (上街)
• never forget (勿忘): as in never forget 6.4 (勿忘六四), never forget the national calamity (勿忘国难)
• never forget (毋忘): same as above
• (Tian)anmen Mothers ((天)安门母亲)
• autonomous (自治): as in “Peking University Student Government”(北大自治会)

However, images can easily by-pass keyword filter and coded images like the one above have been widely circulated around on social media platforms [to make sense of the picture, you have to turn it upside-down]. As it is almost impossible to detect such coded images, popular micro-blogging such as Sina Weibo finally decided to suspend a majority of Hong Kong IP addresses from posting image to Sina public timeline (users can still view their own posts in their private timeline) from June 3 to 4. However, images uploaded before June 3 could still be shared.

In addition, the built-in emotional expression icon of a “candle” has also been removed from micro-blogging platforms. Despite all the effort, the Shanghai stock exchange composite index opened at 2346.98 (decode the 23 anniversary of June 4, 1989) and fell exactly 64.89 points yesterday on June 4. Or was this a rumor again?

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