Market forces outwit the censors on Tiananmen anniversary

  • @cliffordcoonan

Chinese authorities yesterday marked the 23rd anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square by blocking online search terms that reference the 1989 incident. But despite their best efforts, the Communist censors found themselves outwitted by the market forces that drive the Shanghai stock exchange.

The bourse opened at 2346.98 points yesterday, with the two numbers on either side of the decimal point – 46.98 – coincidentally referencing the 4 June, 1989, date of the crackdown when read backwards. In a yet more bizarre twist of fate, the market went on to fall by 64.89 points, with the numbers alluding to Tiananmen yet again.

The coincidences led to the banning of the expression "Shanghai stock exchange" was from websites like Sina Weibo, China's biggest micro-blogging. Earlier, the authorities blocked a number of online search terms, including numbers like "23" and words like "candle", "blood" (as in "bloody suppression") and "mourn".

Along with the online restrictions, authorities have also implemented what they call "wartime" security measures in the more sensitive parts of Beijing, and stepped up surveillance on dissidents and their families.

The Chinese government's official line is that the Tiananmen Square crackdown was necessary to ensure the stability of the country and has always flatly rejected any effort to hold an enquiry into what happened or even give an idea of exactly how many people died on June 4.

Asked at a regular briefing if the government was considering changing its stance on June 4, the foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said: "I just knew you would ask this question," before he added: "The political case you mentioned was concluded long ago by the ruling party and government."

Meanwhile, tens of thousands turned out for a candlelit vigil to mark the anniversary in Hong Kong, with the demonstrators gathered around a memorial to the incident and a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that was built in Tiananmen Square before the June 4 crackdown.