10 Words China Blocked Online For Tiananmen Anniversary

Fatimah Mazhar
On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, around 64 words have been censored on Chinese social media. Many of these have also been removed from the Chinese search engine, Baidu.


The blocking of search keywords in China on June 4 has become routine every year – so much so that it has become an unofficial Orwellian "Internet Maintenance Day."

While many restricted words will be rescinded once the Tiananmen Square massacre commemorations are over, for now attempting to search a keyword that includes the numbers 6 and 4 will show zero results online – especially on Weibo – a Chinese Twitter- like micro-blogging site.

China is a country that is often criticized for its government’s overpowering authority, especially when it comes to freedom of expression. In November 2003 the country erected its virtual Great Wall of China – or firewall rather – that would control and monitor Internet activities. The program, called "The Golden Shield," applied restrictions on websites, foreign and local, containing anti-government content among other things.

In September last year, a controversial law was passed criminalizing online comments as libelous that are reposted 500 or more times. Authorities detained one blogger and five others were fined in the same month for criticizing on Weibo the local police in Gansu Province.

On June 3 and June 4, 1989, Chinese leaders ordered troops to open fire on demonstrators and sent in tanks to crush a student-led campaign movement, killing hundreds. It is the sort of uprising that the Chinese government never wants to experience again.

Given the blotch this day has marked on recent Chinese history and the country’s track record of censorship, these present restrictions on the anniversary of the bloody massacre shouldn’t be surprising.

1.      JUNE 4

2.      Tiananmen (simplified characters)

3.      tank, and also Wang Weilin, the alleged “tank man”

4.      liu: phonetic for 6-4. Also 6-4, campus upheaval, Roman numerals for 6-4, IIXVIIIIX: Roman numbers for 1-9-8-9 and Jun 4th, an alternative way to write 6-4

5.      1989

6.      Square (or plaza)

7.      Martial law

8.      nostalgia—possible reference to Tiananmen Mothers

9.      Student leaders, and also, student movement and Beijing Autonomous University Students Union

10.   candle-lit (vigil)