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Remembering to Forget: A Snapshot of Censorship in China on the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, June 4 2014

A quarter of a century has passed since the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, but the Chinese government is working as hard as ever to suppress memories and mentions of the event. This year: verbally blasting Google and other American technology companies through state media outlets, LinkedIn's capitulation to censorship demands, even outside mainland China, and more than 64 Tiananmen-related words blocked from online searches today, including the word “today.”

On Wednesday, June 4, articles by both the People's Daily and the English-language China Daily accused American technology companies of being “pawns” and spies for the NSA's PRISM program.

The People's Daily posted the piece on its official microblog:

To resist the naked Internet hegemony, we will draw up international regulations, and strengthen technology safeguards, but we will also severely punish the pawns of the villain. The priority is strengthening penalties and punishments, and for anyone who steals our information, even though they are far away, we shall punish them!

More than a week before the June 4 anniversary, China began indiscriminately blocking Google services. GreatFire.org called it the “strictest censorship ever deployed.”

Meanwhile, LinkedIn users have noted that China's censorship reach is more extensive than they thought. A China-based correspondent for China Spectator has written that stories he posted to his linked in account about detained Australian artist Guo Jian are not displayed to other LinkedIn members because it “contained content prohibited in China.” LinkedIn's capitulation to China has affected a London-based artist, as well as LinkedIn users in Hong Kong.

Peter Cai and Fergus Ryan write in the China Spectator: “What’s happening with LinkedIn is a case of self-censorship gone mad.”

They elaborate:

Not only is it killing off discussion between Chinese and foreigners, it’s also affecting the ability of the international community talking to each other about developments in China. The social media site is effectively censoring content generated in China regardless of whether it comes from Chinese citizens or expatriates living there.

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal has a list of 64 words blocked on the microblogging site Sina Weibo today, including nine words that were not blocked last year.

Other tidbits from Twitter:

Finally, this documentary, filmed on June 4, 2005, shows what collective amnesia and long-ingrained self-censorship looks like. (Thanks to China File and Vox for flagging.)

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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