Chinese netizens and censors battle over a sensitive anniversary.
Every June 4, China's vast censorship apparatus goes into overdrive. The anniversary of the violent denouement of the Tiananmen Square protests of the Spring of 1989 triggers an annual cat and mouse game. Chinese “netizens” come up with innovative ways to remember the sensitive anniversary, while censors fight back with widening restrictions of sensitive words on popular microblogs.
This year, the Sino Weibo microblog, which boasts more than one hundred million users, blocked a wide variety of search terms, from “Tiananmen”, “square” and even the candle icon (usually used by users as a greeting).
As the day went on, the list of banned words grew — at one point even the Chinese word for “today” was blocked. As much as the censors tried to keep a lid on discussions on the anniversary, a strange commemoration of the day came from an unlikely source.
The Shanghai Composite Index, the stock market, opened trading on the eerie mark of 2346.98 points, on the 23rd anniversary of June 4, 1989. This prompted a wave of comments online, with analysts too stumped by the long odds on this strange coincidence. As trading closed on the evening of June 4, things got even stranger. The index ended down by an unlikely 64.89 points. By the end of the day, searches for “Shanghai Index” were also banned, leaving analysts wondering, after the strange confluence of events, whether there were ghosts in the machine.