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Today, June 4th

When former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), sacked by Deng Xiaoping for his bolder calls for re-evaluating the past and reforming for the future, died on April 15, 1989, college students in Beijing began a wave of memorials to express their sadness and anger. Soon the students were on the street demanding freedom and democracy. Quickly the movement spread to cities all over China and to people from all walks of life. On June 4th, it ended with guns, tanks and deaths.

At the time I lived in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and was among the few in China that had the news coming from Hong Kong TV. I remember, among the last images available, bulldozers rolling over the makeshift tents in Tiananmen Square the night of June 3rd. The next image I remember was the morning after (or perhaps that of June 5th) shown on CCTV: the square was empty under a gray sky, around the base of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the floor was washed, wet, reflecting early morning light. It was June and in sweltering south, but that sight chilled me to the bones.  

Since late May, my Twitter timeline has had almost nothing else but June 4th: every aspect of it, everything having to do with it. This is my first year on Twitter, and others observed that this year, the 23 anniversary, feels heavier and more intense. Microblogs inside China have censored every possible mention of the occasion, down to the candle icon and the character “” (you’ll see why). I wanted to share a few items from Twitter and Weibo with our readers here to learn about, and remember, this day, not to mention the perspective it provides to our observations of China today.

  • greendyj’s bot@dengbot/>80 times RT @dyc741214: It is 9:30pm now Beijing time. Around this moment twenty-three years ago, the 38th Army from Baoding (保定) fired the first shot in front of the Military Museum, marking the beginning of the bloody crackdown. Let’s not forget that evil bullet!

10:58 AM – 3 Jun 12via Powered by · Details

Mr. Wu Renhua, a participant of June 4th and an exile living in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, has been the self-appointed historian dedicated to finding and recording everything about the event. He has been tweeting, the last couple of days, names of the known dead. So far 202 have been identified by the group called Tiananmen Mothers:

  • 吴仁华@wurenhua/ 51. Zou Bing, female, age about 19 years old, student of Beijing Broadcast College, class ’92; 52. Pao Changkui, age 47, performer of National Ensemble of Minorities Songs and Dances; 53. Bian Zongxu, age 40, manager of mechanical and electrical products supply Co., Xinjiekou, Beijing; 54. Tian Daomin, age 22, student of Business Management Department, University of Science and Technology Beijing, class ’89; 55. He Jie, age 23, graduate student of Institute of Computing Technology, Science Academy of China.

10:55 PM – 2 Jun 12via web · Details

9:40 PM – 1 Jun 12via twitterfeed · Details

[Yaxue’s note: The numbers of arrests and sentences have been hotly disputed. Translation doesn’t mean endorsement.]

  • 成都凯旋@kaixuan2010/ People probably have forgotten Zhou Yongjun (周勇军), who was one of the three students who knelt on the steps of People’s Congress to petition Li Peng (李鹏, then Prime Minister). He’s been imprisoned the second time with a 9-year sentence [in early 2010]. He is suffering from serious medical problems with incontinence.

8:27 PM – 2 Jun 12via Mobile Web · Embed this Tweet

Zhou Yongjun, right.

11:19 PM – 2 Jun 12via Twitter for iPad · Details

  • 流雲@liuyun1989/ from Apple Daily: During the June 4th Massacre of ’89, tanks rolled into  Tiananmen Square around midnight and cleared it. For years there have been no images available of the aftermath. A picture surfaced recently, and it was taken by a participating service man at the time.

10:22 PM – 2 Jun 12via 推土机(墙内直接点击)· Details

Supposedly in the morning of June 4th.

  • soundfury@soundfury/ Sina Weibo has begun to delete posts on mass. Even the one below didn’t survive: “Friends in Hong Kong can go to Victoria Park tomorrow, while friends in Taiwan to Liberty Square, for anniversary events.”

10:56 PM – 2 Jun 12via web · Details

Candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, held on June 4th every year. Image from previous year.

  • free2000fly@free2000fly/ Sohu Weibo blocked my account for posting the following gibberish “占占占占人 占占占点 占占点占 占点占占 点占占占 灬占占占占”.

5:43 AM – 3 Jun 12via web · Embed this Tweet

(Any clue? –tank; 点—tank running over a person; three tanks running over a person; the person became)

11:04 PM – 2 Jun 12via 推土机(墙内直接点击)· Details

Update from Tom: Blogger @zuola has tweeted links to several personal photos from Chinese soldiers in the square after the crackdown. Please take a moment to look at these and remember – 1 2 3 4


6 Comments

  1. […] Tian An’Men aujourd’hui. Je vous conseille un superbe article de Yaxue Cao sur ces événements, d’un point de vue plus « sinocentré » que les médias étrangers […]

  2. […] a man (人) in front of two tanks (占)占占占人: a man in front of three tanksYaxue Cao of Seeing Red in China reports that posting the following “illustration” on Sohu Weibo caused Twitter user […]

  3. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    Yaxue, thank you for your post. I remember coming home from work on June 4th 1989 and watching in disbelief as Kate Adie, BBC war correspondent reported from Tiananmen Square. Her graphic account filed over several days is still on YouTube.

  4. Olf says:

    Thanks for the post Yaxue. I would like to add some worrying comments and ask if others had the same problem:
    It seems that Facebook massively cencored discussions about the Tienanmen massacre. My posts as well as posts, discussions and pictures from several friend about that topic got deleted. The posts and comments were by no means insulting, racist or anarchist, this is in my opinion very outrageous!
    Did anyone else make similar experiences?
    All the best!

    • Chopstik says:

      I’ve seen nothing in this but would be curious to know if you experienced just an anomaly or if there is something more to it. Can’t find any other references to it at the moment so would appreciate any sort of follow-up if you may. Thanks.

  5. T says:

    Facebook, like the rest of internet are in Corporate sphere, and there is no such thing as free speech in the Corporate sphere. Internet is not public sphere, it has always been part of corporate sphere without first amendment protection, and there is currently nothing stopping US corporations to sacrifice speech in corporate sphere to earn non-monetary favors for the Chinese Ministry of Propaganda.

    The right solution should be to extend US FCPA legislation immediately to cover non-monetary bribes paid by US corporation to curry Chinese government favors, such as enforcing self-censorship on US soil. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any political will to do so at the moment.

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