Saturday marked the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and it was business as usual in China. For those of you who are historically challenged, the Tiananmen massacre, or the June 4th incident, refers to the Chinese governmental crackdown and use of martial law against hundreds of thousands of protesters who had been camped out in the great People’s square for weeks. The protesters were mainly University students advocating democracy and free speech.
In the following week, China declared that only 100 people had died, while other, less official sources made estimates in the thousands. Soldiers were made into martyrs by the state, and then the event was banned from all state media, and to this day it is still a taboo subject, with arrests being made for even mentioning the subject in public. Most of the younger generation has never heard of this incident, and if they have they will not discuss it openly.
Having lived in China for almost two years now, I have grown used to China’s internet censorship, but never have I been more terrified than this Sunday when I decided to test what I had heard from other foreigners was a sure fire way to “break your internet”.
In Baidu, the Chinese version of Google, I entered (in Chinese) the phrase 1989 Tiananmen. As soon as I hit send, loading dots popped up, and then things went haywire. My internet connection completely dropped, all my internet connection options disappeared, and I couldn’t reconnect until I had rebooted my computer. I sat in stunned silence, glancing over my shoulder to check that I wasn’t being watched.
To me, this was one of the many signifiers of how total and terrifying the Chinese suppression of this incident is even 27 years later.
If you want to learn more about Tiananmen and the lengths the Chinese government has gone to to rewrite history, I highly recommend The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim.