Xiaohongshu, an Instagram-like startup of China, shared a post on June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and wrote, “Tell me loudly, what is the date today?” The post was taken down quickly, and the company is now facing investigation by a cyber watchdog in Beijing.
According to a report in Wall Street Journal, the Shanghai-based company is backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Weibo account vanished
The entire Weibo account of Xiaohongshu was removed from the platform. A message that reads, “The account was unavailable for suspected violations of laws and regulations”, appears if someone tries to access the account.
Internal investigation initiated
As per the reports, the company is conducting an internal investigation with the Cyberspace Administration of China. Some sources quoted by WSJ believe that Xiaohongshu’s post was not related to the events of 1989. The company has been making similar posts in the past to celebrate the coming weekend.
No space for dissenting voices on political matters
China’s government does not allow discussions on social media over politically ‘sensitive’ matters. One of such incidents was the 1989 crackdown by the communist party on the protesters in central Beijing. Reports suggest that over 10,000 protesters were killed by the Chinese government. Over the years, the government has tried to shut down the commemoration of the event.
The event finds no space in textbooks or any form of media. Before the anniversary of the event, the government officials issue warning to the victims’ relatives to keep mum about the event. The online scrutiny around June 4 has increased exponentially in recent years. Social media posts around the event get automatically deleted. The users cannot update the profile pictures on the social media platforms that can be remotely linked to the event.
Notably, several embassies in Beijing, including the UK, posted an image of a burning candle on their Weibo page. It is the most common form of posts to remember the incident of 1989. However, the posts were quickly removed from Weibo. However, similar posts remained live on other social media networks like Twitter.
Hong Kong authorities had banned the annual candlelight vigil on the day on the pretext of Covid-19 social-distancing rules, but thousands of protesters reached the venue with their cellphones flashlights switched on. Several protesters were arrested.
The annual vigil in Hong Kong commemorating the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, was subdued this year under a security law pushed by China. https://t.co/BsgnRRw6Kk pic.twitter.com/s1bOpHXdqt— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 4, 2021
The recent case of Bing search
On June 4, Microsoft Corp. confirmed that the Bing search engine had temporarily blocked the image search results in the US for “tank man”. It is the most iconic image of a solitary, frail old man standing in front of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square. As per Microsoft’s statement, it was an accidental human error, and the search results were soon restored.
China had blocked apps in the past
Recently, the Chinese government had blocked the audio-social media app Clubhouse after they realized it was being used by Chinese nationals to discuss “sensitive political topics” with the rest of the world. In late 2019, Zoom, a popular video and teleconference service, was blocked by the Chinese authorities. It was unblocked only after Zoom agreed to a secret “rectification plan” with Chinese authorities and provided them access to calls about sensitive subjects and information about the participants in such discussions. Famous social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, etc., search engine Google, and several other websites and apps are blocked in China.