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June 4th:
Censored Histories

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the 89 Democracy Movement in China that culminated in the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre.

As a commemoration of the 30th anniversary Citizen Lab and WeiboScope at Hong Kong University are featuring June 4 related images and keywords that have been censored on social media in China.

These posts provide a view into the censored history of June 4.

Remembering June 4th, 30 years later

Three unidentified men in front of approaching tanks in Tiananmen Square, China

On June 4th 1989, the Chinese military carried out a brutal crackdown on student-led demonstrations calling for democratic reforms which led to estimated deaths of between hundreds and thousands of people.

A row of tanks on the street in Tiananmen Square, China

There are no references to the 1989 Democracy Movement in any history textbooks and most university students in China have never heard of it.

Soliders walking alongside a wall of fire

To this day, June 4 remains a highly controversial event that is widely censored in China.

Select Censored Keywords

八九民运
89 Democracy Movement
天安门事件
Tiananmen Incident
毋忘六四
Never forget June 4
历史的伤口
the wound in history

Passing of Hu Yaobang - April 15 1989

Hu Yaobang, a former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who helped navigate China away from orthodox Marxism, passed away on April 15, 1989.

Hu was seen as more lenient towards student movements than other Communist Party leaders including Deng Xiaoping, then the paramount leader of the Party. Hu was forced to step down two years prior to his death for embracing “bourgeois liberalization.”

Two days after Hu’s death, thousands of university students occupied Tiananmen Square and urged Party leaders to follow Hu’s belief in political liberalization. These demonstrations marked the beginning of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

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89 胡耀邦
89 Hu Yaobang
胡耀邦下台前后
Around Hu Yaobang’s resignation
解除报禁耀邦不朽
Lift Ban on Newspaper Censorship, Long Live Yaobang
胡耀邦平反
Hu Yaobang vindicated

Hunger Strike May 13-19, 1989

On April 26, 1989, in an effort to curb the increasing scale of the student protests, People’s Daily published an editorial denouncing the student demonstrations as a “turmoil” instigated by a “tiny minority”. The editorial escalated tensions between the government and student protesters.

Image of students staging a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square

On May 13, 1989, around 100 student protesters in Tiananmen Square went on a hunger strike in an effort to push for talks with Communist Party leaders, protest the negative characterization of the protests by state media, and demand official acknowledgement of the democracy movement. The number reportedly increased to about 3,000 people over the next few days.

The hunger strike galvanised support for the students in China and around the world. It is estimated that the hunger strike helped draw over a million people to join the student protests in Beijing. The students obtained a dialogue with the government on May 14, but their demands were not met.

Image of a protest signage

On May 19, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Zhao Ziyang, appeared at the rally and delivered a speech that has now become famous. Zhao pleaded with the students to end the strike and promised to continue dialogue with the protesters: “It’s been seven days since you went on hunger strike, you must stop... I have only one wish. If you stop this hunger strike, the government won't close the door for dialogue, never!”

Image of Zhao Ziyang pleading the students to end the hunger strike

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四二六社论
April 26 Editorial
北宣布学生运动为动乱
Beijing denounced student movement as turmoil
89 绝食
89 hunger strike
绝食的学生还在增加
the number of students on hunger strike is increasing
绝食已经到了第七天不能再这样下去了
it’s been 7 days since hunger strike, it can’t continue

Martial law declared - May 20 1989

As the number of protestors in Tiananmen square increased, leadership in the Communist Party of China debated how to address the demonstration.

Party leaders decided to impose martial law across districts of Beijing on May 21, 1989.

News of the decision was leaked to the public resulting in the order being moved up to May 20. Following the order, units of the People’s Liberation Army descended on Beijing.

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邓小平下令镇压
Deng Xiaoping orders martial law
六四戒严部队
June 4 Martial Law troops

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