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No "Big Yellow Ducks" on Chinese Microblogs for Tiananmen Square Anniversary

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, June 4 2013

Weibo via @RichardBuangan

Chinese microblogging platform Weibo has banned searches for "big yellow duck" after online activists posted doctored images of the famous Tiananmen Square "Tank Man" photo, replacing the tanks with a row of yellow ducks like the one currently in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The activists were posting that and other doctored versions of the iconic photo to mark the June 4 anniversary of the crackdown.

Other Weibo postings include a cartoon version of the photo featuring an Angry Birds character and a reconstruction of the photo using Legos, according to the WSJ.

Weibo has also been removing images of a candle icon often used to remember 1989 crackdown. According to the WSJ, the platform had initially seemed to be trying a more sophisticated filtering mechanism under which controversial searches were allowed but brought up innocuous results, but that seemed to end Monday night, as the platform also began hand-deleting the images.

On Monday, Beijing AIDS activist Hu Jia issued a call on Twitter, which is blocked in mainland China except through circumvention tools, to wear black in honor of the Tiananmen anniversary.

But according to the WSJ and GreatFire.org, which monitors Chinese censorship, activists are still finding ways around the blocks. The term "6 4" was briefly a top search term on Weibo Tuesday morning. Other users posted more cryptic comments noting dark clouds over Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou Tuesday afternoon. “This seems to mean that something happened in the past, but I can’t search for it," the WSJ quoted one Weibo user as writing.

GreatFire.org also noted that the so-called Chinese Firewall had begun blocking access to the encrypted version of Wikipedia, and GreatFire called on Wikipedia to make HTTP access the default for Chinese web users in order to make its censorship more difficult.

The Chinese language lends itself to imagery and puns, creating openings for political parody. Combined with Chinese adaptation of Twitter-style microblog platforms, that means Internet memes and clever puns have become a favorite tool in the cat-and-mouse game between censored and censors. At Personal Democracy Forum 2012, artist and researcher An Xiao Mina explained it to techPresident: