“Tiananmen Square” was one of the world’s top trending phrases on Twitter on the 25th anniversary of the student protests there that ended in 1989 in a bloody military crackdown. As the international community remembered the day by sharing stories, tweets, photos and memories online, in mainland China, social media was silenced.
In Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, thousands of people attended a vigil marking the Tiananmen anniversary. In the special administrative region of China, people enjoy freedoms of expression unkown in mainland China.
Photos and videos of nearly 100,000 people taking part in the vigils were quickly shared across social media, becoming some of the most moving snapshots of a population trying to remember those who died and those who continue to fight for civil rights. In mainland China, however, such images will never make it to people's screens.
According to FreeWeibo.com, a live database that catalogs censored tweets, the top nine blocked items in China on Wednesday and Thursday were all related to Tiananmen. Any posts containing the phrase “Six-four” the date of the massacre, the phrase “candle” or even the word “today” were blocked from China’s version of Twitter, Weibo.
Conversation or images from any memorials from Victoria Park in Hong Kong to Taiwan’s Liberty Square were immediately removed from the social media platform.
“That year, that day, that man, you all forgot? Many others haven’t,” one post that was blocked read.
“You can free the imprisoned body, but you can never imprison the freedom of thought. You can shamelessly kill the angry voice, but the voice of freedom will always be with ten thousand (who) stood up with candles,” another wrote, referencing the Victoria Park memorial.
As a result of sophisticated online censorship measures, top trends on June 4 instead included a celebrity marriage, discussion over the notoriously difficult college entrance exams, and a Chinese dish called "watermelon pork."