Tiananmen Square: 25 years after the death of Hu Yaobang
The impetus for the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 occurred roughly 25 years ago, marking an ominous moment on the state of dissent and censorship in the years to follow.
In 1989, China was in some ways, a much different place than it is today. While still large, the country was not the economic power it is today, though it was well on its way. Also, the Internet was still in its formative stages, having not yet worked its way into the lives of everyday citizens.
Today in the world's second largest economy, the Internet is a place where many people go to interact through social media outlets like Sina Weibo. Further, numerous companies are looking to extend their reach into the country due to the enormous economic potential and customer base. But despite how much the times have changed, a lot of policies have seemed to hold true over the years, including the country's stance on dissent.
Tiananmen Square anniversary
CNN reported that roughly a quarter century ago, students began to gather to morn the death of the government official Hu Yaobang who was purged two years before. These demonstrations continued to escalate through his funeral and ultimately culminated in a military crack down in one June 4, 1989, which took the lives of several hundred to thousands of protestors depending on the account.
The moment marked just how far the government was willing to go in order to silence critics, and shows just how sensitive it was to criticism. Despite the changes that the country and rest of the world has seen, this still reigns true in the country today. The country operates what is known as the Great Firewall of China, which heavily regulates online activity. On top of blocking websites like the New York Times and Facebook, it censors certain search terms as well – including the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
CNN noted that these restrictions were loosened somewhat on the anniversary of Hu's death, with his name turning up legitimate search results, and netizens being allowed to discuss the anniversary. However, the student protests and political reform that Hu fought for are still banned.
The Washington Post reported that a number of high-up government officials recently committed suicide, raising a number of questions within the country. For instance, the Deputy Director of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, who is responsible for taking complaints from citizens about government officials was found hanged in his office recently.
Another shocking death was that of Li Wufeng who was the head of China's extensive Internet censorship program. He jumped to his death on March 24 out of the office building where he worked.
The deaths were within a month of one another, and while it is not likely that they are some how connected, both officials were responsible in some form or another for reacting to the concerns of the Chinese populous.
The news source noted that the Chinese Central Propaganda Department reacted quickly, prohibiting any news sites within the country from reporting on the incident unless approved by the government body. Many people within the country are skeptical of the way these deaths are being portrayed.
"A new rule for officials who have committed suicide: Every single one must be depressed, every single one must be unhealthy," said one individual on Sina Weibo, according to the Post.
Others speculated that the demands of these jobs, which are at the heart of the government's attempt to control media and public dissent, finally took their toll.
Though 25 years have passed since the death of Hu Yaobang, it seems that the death of public officials is still a very sensitive topic within the country, and one that the government is wary of being discussed in a public forum.