On Eve of Tiananmen Anniversary, China’s Prominent Weiborati Speak Out

“Don’t worry about forgetfulness—at least the Sina censors remember,” tweeted Jia Zhangke, a film director.

Like 2013, 1989 was the year of the Snake on the Chinese calendar. It was also a year that Chinese authorities prefer not to remember. On the twenty-fourth anniversary of the crackdown against students and protesters on Tiananmen Square, Chinese authority has continued its longstanding policy of censorship on any and all online mentions of the incident. Some of China’s Internet users, however, continue to try their best to keep the memories alive in cyberspace, often knowing that it will only be a matter of minutes before their messages are deleted.

China’s Internet users tried to keep memories of the Tiananmen Incident alive through use of popular memes like the Rubber Duck.

It is worth noting that many of those tweeting about June 4 are prominent figures who have been verified by Sina, including film directors, business people, journalists, lawyers, and other professionals. Many attempted to light a virtual candle, an emoticon that will not be made available to Weibo users on June 4. “Seems like I can still light one on my phone,” tweeted Yuan Li, the Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal’s Chinese-language site. Several users wrote that they plan to stop using the Internet for twenty-four hours on June 4, spending the day in reflection and remembrance instead.

Below is a sampling of tweets on Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter) related to the June 4 incident, translated by Tea Leaf Nation.

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Jia Zhangke (Film Director): Don’t worry about forgetfulness—at least the Sina censors remember.

Yuan Li (Wall Street Journal Chinese Editor in Chief): Seems like I can still light one on my phone. [Candle][Candle][Candle]

Shen Dafei (Journalist): That year, I was preparing for TOEFL after taking the college entrance exam. I only wanted to have fun. But that night, my father and I did not sleep, and stayed in front of the television to watch the live broadcast. At some point, I found that my dad became really quiet behind me, and when I turn around, I saw tears streaming down his face. That was the first time I saw my father like that. Before that, I had never felt such a connection with my father, and never thought I would have such deep emotions about my country.

Deng Wei (Journalist): Just found out that the emoticon [Candle] has disappeared.

Chen Baocheng (Journalist): The children born on that year, that month and that day, will have their twenty-fifth birthday soon.

People’s Net (Internet arm of the People’s Daily): [Send You a Bullet] If at fifteen years old, you get the doll that you really loved when you were five, and if at sixty-five, you can finally afford the dress that you coveted when you were twenty, would that mean anything? Everything can start anew, except youth. —Liu Yu, “Send You a Bullet.”

A Ding (Writer): I’m going to sleep. Good night, Liubukou. Good night, Muxidi. Good night, Changanjie. [References to Beijing areas affected by June 4 incident]

Ma Guangyuan (Economist): Due to the reason commonly known, I will not be on Weibo for a whole day starting from now. Reflecting on the day from many years ago.

Jian Gemin (Career Trainer): Tomorrow: 1989, June 4, the history that we remember.

He Gang (Journalist): I remember that year. Passion on fire. History has rolled on for two cycles [in the Chinese calendar]. That year, it happened right before my college entrance exam, and it put a lot of stress on me. One of the popular majors in Peking University ceased enrollment in the aftermath.

Zhang Xin (Businesswoman): That year, I was still attending university in the U.K. That semester I did not really go to class. Every day I stayed glued to the TV. All the Chinese people were. Then I took a train to London to join the protest. That was the most memorable state affair from my youth.