Internet access blocked on Tiananmen Square anniversary

Members of the public hold candles at a vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2017 to mark the 28th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the recent action by the Cyberspace Administration of China in blocking access to the internet on June 4, 2017.

On June 4, the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, social media users across China found access to WeChat, a social media platform, limited and almost impossible to use. According to media reports from Hong Kong, users were unable to post images to their accounts. Throughout the day, internet users also found that any content or headlines that referenced the anniversary were quickly deleted. The authorities said that the content was taken offline as it ‘violated the relevant laws’ without reference the exact laws.

In the lead up to the anniversary, many bloggers have complained that they were having issues using their social media accounts, including WeChat, and authorised VPNs.

The Tiananmen Square anniversary, which is known as June Fourth in China, marks the 1989 massacre of Tiananmen Square. The topic is taboo in China, with victims’ families telling the media they were contacted in the lead up to June 4 multiple times. They also said they can no longer move freely and have to escorted by Beijing police to the cemetery, with the whole process recorded by police. The families said that compensation has been discussed, but whether decision makers and leaders would be brought to justice has no been discussed.

This year, Gao Yu, a veteran journalist, was forced to ‘travel’ outside Beijing so that the media would not contact her in the lead up to the ‘sensitive period’. Gao Yu was one of the first journalists’ to reveal the government’s involvement in the massacre. 

The IFJ Asia Pacific office said: “Government control of the internet is fast becoming the tool of choice for governments across the Asia Pacific during times of potential political instability. The government of China continues to use rules, laws and regulations to control information, online and offline. More recently, the government has empowered internet providers to remove content that ‘endangers social security’. However, there are no laws or rules that allow the government to block access to platforms or the internet.”

We remind President Xi Jinping that the free flow of information is a basic cornerstone of democracy and “One Belt One Road” initiatives.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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