As the 28th anniversary of the crackdown approached, activists have been put under surveillance, detained, or questioned, while the usual internet controls were tightened. Foreign users of Sina Weibo were not allowed to post images or videos from Saturday through Monday.
Happy Systems Maintenance Day to all my Chinese friends! pic.twitter.com/UFtNgLJouK
— Brendan O'Kane (@bokane) June 4, 2017
— Thomas·王 🍁 (@iChinadian) June 2, 2017
— Thomas·王 🍁 (@iChinadian) June 4, 2017
Family members of the victims, who are part of a loosely-knit group called Tiananmen Mothers, issued a public statement calling for an official investigation and redress of the events of 1989, just as they have every year for the past decade. Human Rights in China translated the statement:
We as Chinese citizens are protected by the Constitution of China and have the right to petition about the loss of our loved ones in the June Fourth Massacre. We cannot accept the way the Chinese government characterized the students’ patriotic movement as a “counter-revolutionary riot” and deployed machine guns and tanks against unarmed students and citizens in the capital city Beijing under the pretext of putting down a riot. We also cannot accept how the Chinese government portrayed the June Fourth Massacre as a “political turmoil,” in order to unilaterally evade the responsibility for committing atrocities. The government’s false rhetoric and refusal to take responsibility can never rub out the bloodstains imprinted on the ground.
[…] The culprit responsible for this unparalleled massacre is a government bereft of humanity, a government bloated with unchecked power that scorns the constitution and the will of the people! Countless families have since been shrouded in the vastness of inescapable pain. We have identified 202 deceased victims who made up only a small number of those killed. Nobody knows the exact number of people who died in the June Fourth Massacre or their names. [Source]
As Elizabeth Lynch writes on her China Law and Policy blog, people around China find creative ways every year to commemorate the deaths despite the official silence on the topic. The annual vigil in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Sunday evening will be the only public commemoration in Chinese territory, and the South China Morning Post reports on how the younger generation in Hong Kong is working to keep memories of the events alive. The vigil will be attended by a special guest in the form of a liquor bottle with a label honoring the victims of June 4th. In The New York Times, Didi Kirsten Tatlow reports on how the bottle was smuggled out of China and around the world before reaching Hong Kong. Its creators have since been detained:
Finally, coming nearly full circle, the 450-milliliter bottle of baijiu, a fiery Chinese clear liquor, was carried to Hong Kong, a semiautonomous city that is part of China, by Andrew To, a local democracy advocate. Mr. To confirmed his part in the bottle’s travels in an interview. In Hong Kong, it is set to appear at a candlelight vigil on Sunday to memorialize the crackdown in Tiananmen Square, providing a new “focal point” for the event, Mr. Yang said.
Mr. Yang declined to identify the official who smuggled it out and asked that the Middle Eastern country that was the liquor’s first destination not be identified to protect the official.
As all of that was going on, the four men charged with producing and selling the commemorative liquor sit in detention in Chengdu, facing possibly long prison sentences. In March, Chinese prosecutors charged Chen Bing, Fu Hailu, Luo Fuyu and Zhang Junyong with “inciting subversion of state power.” They were “dissatisfied with our country’s socialist system,” the court said, and “plotted together, discussed, manufactured and printed” the baijiu’s special labels.
The liquor’s name, “Eight Liquor Six Four,” is a homophone for 89/6/4, the date of the massacre on June 4, 1989. The label features a modified drawing of the famous standoff between an unarmed man and a row of tanks near Tiananmen Square, and it boasts that the liquor was aged for 27 years. (Last year was the 27th anniversary of the crackdown.) The men advertised their product online and had sold perhaps several dozen bottles — charging 89.64 renminbi, about $13, for two — when the police detained them in May 2016. [Source]
David Chen, a student in 1989 who participated in the protests, hid a series of photographs he took until he emigrated to the U.S. in 2012. The New York Times has now published them. Facebook users who tried to commemorate June 4th by installing a memorial frame around their profile picture had their photos temporarily rejected by the social media platform. Facebook is banned in China, but the company has been appealing to the Chinese authorities in an apparent effort to be allowed back into the country. Facebook has since apologized.
— Rose Tang (唐路） (@rosetangy) June 3, 2017
Amnesty International’s William Nee writes about the Chinese government’s censoring of history, saying, “Refusing to objectively acknowledge history only prolongs the suffering of the survivors and hinders reparations.” Meanwhile, internet users in China have been slyly nodding to their own history by posting about events in other countries:
On (heavily censored) anniversary of Tiananmen massacre, Chinese social media users passing around story about 1989 Romanian Revolution pic.twitter.com/IEFBblajnC
— Josh Chin (@joshchin) June 4, 2017
See also a bilingual interview in The New York Times with former CNN Beijing bureau chief Mike Chinoy reflecting on media coverage of the protests and the crackdown.
Read more about the 1989 protest movement and crackdown, via CDT, including a series of original news reports from the period, a list of related censored keywords over the past five years, and the best of our June 4-related translations and posts.