Minitrue: June 4 Content Restrictions for Douyin Official Accounts and Key Opinion Leaders

The following instructions have been leaked and distributed online.

For June 3rd, 4th, 5th: all official accounts are forbidden from posting content, and all key opinion leaders are banned from posting brand-related advertising content. The restrictions will end on Tuesday, June 6th. 

Security Precautions: 

*All those running official accounts must pay close attention to trends in the comment sections of old posts. Comments and reposts are forbidden from displaying content including, but not limited to: lit candle emojis, numbers with unclear implications, slogans, tanks, old photos with a throwback feel, Jackie Chan/Alan Tam/Eric Tsang/Anita Mui and other Hong Kong artists, or photographs of large crowds/Victoria Harbor/Tiananmen/the Summer Palace/candlelight/objects lined up in a row, among other content. When necessary, please temporarily close the comment section until the day restrictions are lifted.

* Note that the number of retweets, comments, or likes on official-account content should never be a sensitive number. When necessary, please rectify in a timely manner. (June 2, 2023) [Chinese]

The above censorship instructions were reportedly issued by Douyin, the sister application of TikTok operated by their parent company ByteDance, to key opinion leaders in the streaming space on June 2. Sunday, June 4 will be the 34th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Last year, e-commerce livestreamer Li Jiaqi hawked a tank-shaped cake during a show on the eve of the massacre’s anniversary. The livestream feed was cut soon after the cake appeared, and Li did not return to livestreaming for three months. Li’s temporary downfall gave birth to the Li Jiaqi Paradox: how can you self-censor if you don’t know what’s forbidden?

There are few clearer lists of Tiananmen taboos than the forbidden content enumerated above. Lit candle emojis are a universal online expression of grief and a favored expression of remembrance in China. “Numbers with unclear implications” is a reference to the vast numerology that has grown around avoiding “64,” the month and day of the Tiananmen massacre. Those seeking to commemorate the anniversary sometimes use the euphemism “May 35th.” When 64 must be used, those inclined to comply with state censorship often use work-arounds, a custom that has seemingly spread to Hong Kong: advertisers who took out full page ads congratulating the state-adjacent paper Ming Pao on the 64th anniversary of its founding used the awkward formulation, “Congratulations on moving towards 65 years.” That focus on numerology has extended to the number of likes, comments, and reposts of old posts, which authorities clearly fear could be used to reference the forbidden date. The banning of images of Victoria Harbor and lined-up objects are attempts to suppress the once popular tradition of placing miscellaneous objects in a row in reference to the iconic “Tank Man” photograph—the most famous of the parodies used a giant yellow duck that once floated in the harbor. 

The run-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre often sees a broader tightening of political controls. Baidu Maps recently removed “Sitong Bridge,” the site of Peng Lifa’s 2022 protest against Xi Jinping and the Communist Party, from its search function. This spring, Hong Kong’s government removed hundreds of books about Tiananamen and other topics from local libraries. With the passage of Hong Kong’s strict national security law in 2020, the city’s annual Tiananmen vigil has ceased to exist and its June 4 Museum was forced to close, although it survives online ( The recently opened June 4th Memorial Museum in New York is now the only permanent, physical exhibition in the world dedicated to preserving the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests and the bloody suppression that followed.

A recent essay by China Media Project’s director David Bandurski, “How a Massacre Shaped China’s Media,” reminds us of a time when the Chinese press stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the students and other citizens clamoring for change. The essay notes that the May 18, 1989 edition of the People’s Daily included a photo of People’s Daily journalists marching, and this caption: “On May 17, a number of workers from this paper march in the streets, expressing solidarity with the university students.” The same People’s Daily article contained this quote from a grassroots cadre in Beijing: “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they [the leaders] won’t come out to see them. You can’t just hide. You can hide from today, but you can’t hide from tomorrow. The more you hide, the bigger the problem becomes!”

Cindy Carter contributed to this post.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.


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