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Twitterers Defy Tiananmen Ban June 4, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
Tags: , ,

Twitterers proved that there are ways to get round the great firewall of China on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen killings. Authorities in China had blocked social networking sites like Twitter and Flickr in an attempt to stop online discussion on the subject.


The Tiananmen anniversary is one of the hottest Twitter topics by users in China. Those too young to have personal memories of 1989 forwarded link to articles in foreign media or simply re-tweeted other people’s posts.

The wide reach of sites like Facebook, which remains accessible, are providing curious students with information they were previously denied. Fans of Tank Man – the man who stood in front of the tanks in the iconic photograph of the protests – were free to remember those who took part and victims of the crackdown.

China bans discussion of the events in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989, when troops quelled weeks of protest by students and workers. Beijing has never released a death toll on what it calls the “4 June incident.” Hundreds are believed to have died in and around the square.


In the anonymity of the online world, Web-savvy youths use mirror sites and proxy servers to explore alternative versions of the official history and to discuss their government’s clumsy efforts at censorship. With YouTube and several blog-hosting websites permanently blocked, advice on how to access Twitter via a proxy, VPN (virtual private network) or Hotspot shield spread around quickly.

Links to photos of policemen blocking the lenses of foreign journalists with their umbrellas was a popular tweet. Many tweets on unrelated topics carried the subject Tiananmen. People typed Tiananmen on every post so the topic is within the 10 most popular on Twitter.

Related posts:
How the Chinese reported Tiananmen
China Blocks Twitter, Flickr, Others as Tiananmen Anniversary Looms
Tiananmen killings: Was the media right?
BBC audio slideshow: Tiananmen Square



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