“Keep quiet and carry on” is the slogan that can best describe China’s take on the approaching 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
This is the yearly Tiananmen anniversary crackdown, and people within China know what to expect; slower internet, blocked search terms, more military personnel in public and the arrest of high profile individuals. But this year’s crackdown appears particularly thorough, either a reaction to dissent being higher than usual or a perception that it is in light of the milestone anniversary.
The Chinese government has already jailed scores of lawyers, activists and intellectuals, sending a chilling message to any other would-be agitators. Of the most widely reported was the arrest of Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer who helped organise the 1989 protests. His detention came three days after he joined a private panel discussion on the massacre. Around 15 people were at the event, five of whom have since been detained. Then there was the airing of confessions on state media by journalist Gao Yu and citizen journalist Xiang Nanfu this May, which echoes Maoist propaganda tactics.
As we get closer to 4 June actions against freedom of expression will grow. Yvonne Shen, who is Asia News Digest Editor at Freedom House, an NGO committed to tracking violations to free expression, says the Chinese government “step up their censorship efforts in the days surrounding that date”. Within a week the organisation anticipate spikes in suspicious activity online. They are keeping a close eye on social platform WeChat in particular, given its current popularity.
Tiananmen Massacre Presentation