China’s internet censorship of news and terms related to the Tiananmen Square military crackdown that happened 25 years ago today has been so heavy-handed this year that Google’s search engine is completely shut down in China, many foreign news outlets are blocked and even the candle emoticon has been erased from social media.
But there is one piece of information specifically about the event that Chinese citizens can access—an editorial in the English-language state-run Global Times tabloid that criticizes Chinese dissidents and western media who continue to mark the event, and explains why China does not care to memorialize the crackdown in which hundreds of students were killed.
The essay, headlined “25 years on, society firmer about its path,” admits that Beijing is censoring information about the anniversary, saying “China has shielded relevant information in a bid to wield a positive influence on the smooth development of reform and opening-up.”
It also says that several “tragedies,” including “the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring,” helped the generation that participated in Tiananmen protests gain a “deeper understanding”—presumably that people shouldn’t try to overthrow communist and authoritarian governments. The younger generation, meanwhile, has “avoided being misled by forces antagonistic to China’s current political system.” Besides, the essay goes on to say, everyone else in China is just too busy to spend time thinking about Tiananmen:
Chinese society has never forgotten the incident 25 years ago but not talking about it indicates the attitude of society…Anti-China forces and Chinese exiles in the West have spared no efforts recently but they will be disappointed again. Chinese people are busy with various reforms and different groups are pursuing their own interests.
The op-ed was not at all blocked in China, websites that monitor censorship showed this afternoon, but because it is only in English, it isn’t likely to get a wide readership. A Chinese-language op-ed that appeared today in state media used some of the same terms and phrases to criticize the west, but had no direct reference to censorship, and instead of saying “25 years ago,” it said “twenty.”
Soon after the English-language version was posted, patriotic reader comments began rolling in, like this one from “Qingbao”:
While Japanese right-wings like Abe suffer from amnesia, not remembering things that happened (like the Nanjing massacre), the US media suffer from so-called “paramnesia”, remembering things that never happened (like the “Tiananmen massacre”).
Jennifer Chiu contributed reporting.