Tiananmen Square anniversary sees Chinese censorship rear its ugly head
Twenty-four years since one of China's most notable human-rights debacles, the Asian nation sadly continues to display an unwillingness to allow more freedom regarding the press and information.
In Beijing's Tiananmen Square, students peacefully protested against a lack of opportunity and excessive government control of the media for seven weeks leading up to June 4, 1989. On that date, nearly 300,000 Chinese soldiers violently expelled the protestors from the square, resulting in numerous deaths and casualties, according to PBS.
The Chinese government listed the number of deaths resulting from the clash at 241, widely believed to be an extremely low estimate, showing just how significant the country's propaganda machine is. Fast forward 24 years and, unfortunately, much is the same. However, the government has added the Internet to its list of information-sharing mediums that it's depriving its citizens from taking full advantage of.
The Guardian reported that the government has censored several online search terms relating to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Even the slightest references to the date have been blocked, including any number sequence that even remotely relates to June 4. According to the source, the terms "6-4," "63+1," and "65-1," have been censored in a clear attempt by Chinese officials to suppress the ability of the populous to educate themselves and organize protests.
It should come as no surprise that the Chinese Communist Party has taken these steps as denying citizens access to the Internet has been the status quo for the ruling body for years. In December 2012, the country forced Internet users to provide names to service providers. In turn, those enterprises were required to report forbidden content to Chinese officials, The New York Times reported.
Although the advent of wide-spread Internet use should have provided Chinese people with a source to discuss discontent with government policies and formulate a thoughtful discourse on how to improve the nation, the web has become just another frustrating reminder of the freedom that many Chinese citizens long for.
Make it an issue at home
At this point, it seems the only thing that may facilitate a loosening of the information reigns in China is international pressure. However, with the Asian country being such an economic and political force, it's unlikely that any country would call for serious reforms. The obligatory verbal condemnation and wag of the finger may come from some Western leaders in a veiled attempt to appear progressive. It will have no effect.
Perhaps the reason for a lack of international concern is that once foreign censorship and information control is brought to the forefront, Western citizens may think about the state of information freedom in their respective lands.
Even so, most Westerners have some ability to voice political concerns so that they are heard. This may be the only way to put pressure on radical suppression seen in nations such as China. By forcing lawmakers to discuss censorship by staging protests or contacting elected officials, the fight for freedom of the press can be brought to the forefront.
It's hardly a battle confined to an attempt to have black bars removed from words. It's a struggle against human rights violations on a larger scale. The Australian Associated Press reported that not only is the Chinese government censoring Internet searches, it has sent police officers to block the gate of a cemetery in which some of those killed in the Tiananmen Square Massacre have been laid to rest.
That deprivation of the most human of rights is what is fought against by calling for an end to such gross censorship. By making censorship and information sharing a domestic issue, citizens of the West can change the political narrative at home as well as abroad.