Remember June 4th, or May 35th, or 9875321 (Posted 06/04/2013)
It has been 24 years since Tiananmen demonstration was crushed in the early hours of June 4, 1989 by the tanks sent in by the Chinese government, with hundreds killed and more injured, missing, jailed or exiled.
With it labeled as a “counter-revolutionary riot” by the Communist Party, all terms related to June 4th, as a date or name of perhaps the largest democracy movement ever, have also been censored since.
Over the last week, I tried searching online terms such as June 4th 1989, June 4th Tiananmen, or Tiananmen 89 on Baidu, China’s largest search engine, Weibo, China’s largest microblogging, People’s Daily, Global Times, Xinhua News, and China Daily USA. Mostly I met statements such as “According to relevant laws and regulations, part of the search results are not shown,” or “The web address you entered could not be found.” The search did, however, return a couple articles with June 4 in them, except that they were criticizing the West’s or U.S.’ bias towards China over June 4th.
Chinese netizens who do remember and want to commemorate the event have learned to be very creative and stealthy about it. They have come up with various clever ways to say June 4th without saying it.
One way was to say May 35th until the fictional date itself became a censored term.
Some tried the fourth day of June 1st International Children’s Day.
Another way to say June 4th is by way of omission. For instance, Chinese bloggers would write 9875321, with 6 and 4, or June 4, missing.
In Baidu Tieba (post bar), for instance, I found a post which had survived from June 2012 that said: “又是一年9875321,” or “It’s another year of 9875321.” “I am not saying anything,” the blogger continued, “Those who understand remember it.” Someone responded “In my heart.” Another wrote, “Salute to the brave students!”
On Sina Weibo, also a post from a year ago said,“Our yearly game: 9875321. Guess everyone where have the numbers gone?” Another user replied, “On the day when we can freely comment about 9875321, we will be the true masters of ourselves.” I even found a picture of the iconic Tiananmen image, the Tank Man, someone posted in March.
However, in the last few days, these posts were all gone.
What is left is the memory of June 4th, or May 35th, or 9875321.