Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Censoring Remembrance: China’s Twenty-Fourth Unrealized Commemoration [Three Torches] #RisingChina #TianAnMen

How China sees itself: An encouraging college student post on Tiananmen and the agenda setting chasm of the Great Firewall – between true events and their representations.

Official recognition for this wrong is a long way off, and moving forward, online activity will continue to be a forum where people can lament and lash out, but much of it will remain in electronic form — digital dust in the large scheme of things. Dissent will become more creative, but so will the censorship regime, and at year number twenty-four, Tiananmen is still just one more irreconcilable trauma. Soon it might even cease to exist online, and with that little else can serve as an effective platform for remembrance and discussion in China. Three Torches Blog, June 5, 2013

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CENSORING REMEMBRANCE: CHINA’S TWENTY-FOURTH UNREALIZED COMMEMORATION
by Jonathan Lin, Three Torches Blog
Source – Three Torches Blog, published June 5, 2013

Much has been said — and much more has gone unaddressed — about China’s June 4th 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Yesterday marked the 24th anniversary with still no sense of closure, justice, or answers. One can get a small glimpse of the events of that chaotic and tragic day from Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, and his New York Times article from more than two decades earlier. But as the years pass, and less of the younger generations realize the significance of the famous ‘Tank Man‘ image or ‘Statue of Democracy‘, anniversary commemorations remain an important annual reminder for something yet to be be laid to rest. The city of Hong Kong, a special administrative region located to the south of mainland China, has been the site of Tiananmen anniversary commemorations for a few years now, though this year local journalists have come away with photographs that show important variations in this year’s peaceful vigils, including shots of a demonstrator carrying placards saying “Thank you, Hong Kong”

As reporting of the events that commemorate the 24th anniversary still unfold, I would like to draw attention more to the state of Chinese censorship and the online crackdown of anything remotely related to the events back in 1989. According to The Guardian, China’s biggest blogging platform Sino Weibo — the homegrown Chinese variant of Twitter — kicked its censorship platform into overdrive, banning search terms such as ‘today’ ‘tomorrow’ and date references, where numerous combinations of digits and figures bring netizens to dead links and webpages. Such combinations include ’25′ (89 subtract 64), ’10′ (6 + 4), ’17′ (8+9) or ’24′ (twenty-fourth anniversary) — all have become taboo in recent days because of the political sensitivity of the anniversary. Though Hong Kong journalists and netizens are savvy and adopt a range of parody, panache, and perseverance to reference the anniversary, China’s authoritarian Internet censorship regime remains in place and will prevent the government’s power from eroding. Indeed voices of resistance, grief, and frustration on the mainland are largely stifled by what the authorities have put in place online.

Please click here to read the full article at Three Torches.

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Censorship, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Disaster, Domestic Growth, Government & Policy, Great Firewall, History, Human Rights, Ideology, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Media, Modernisation, Peaceful Development, People, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Chinese Identity, Tiananmen 20th anniversary, Tiananmen security, U.S.

Tiananmen’s dissenting voices [The Age]

June 4th is the 21st anniversary of the highly significant Tiananmen Square Incident – both because it showed a solidarity of a people beyond their political conditioning, and more importantly, it showed a face of China the rest of the world had not known before. Last year was the 20th anniversary and news on it was all over the place. Not so much this year.

Naturally there is no noticeable mention or reportage on both the official mouthpieces China Daily and Xinhua. A quick search on Google, under the search field – ‘June 4th, China’ and ‘Tiananmen Anniversary’ also found no noteworthy mentions published this year in 2010 within the first two search page returns (though it must be limited as I was searching in English, and not Chinese)

Here is coverage from an Australian perspective that notes, “…those internal wounds are still raw, as demonstrated by the effort that the party and PLA have exerted to ensure today’s 21st anniversary will pass without any public mention within China.”

Also, go here for this year’s controvesy regarding the incident, with Chinese web users trying to circumvent limitations on public discourse by publishing this cartoon – ‘Tank cartoon erased before Tiananmen anniversary’ (Committee to Protect Journalists, 2010)

– – –

Tiananmen’s dissenting voices
John Garnaut
Source – The Age, published June 4, 2010

General Qin Jiwei (centre) with Deng Xiaoping (right), in 1984. Photo - The Age

There were heroes in the military in 1989, John Garnaut reports from Beijing.

IN May 1989 the talented commander of the legendary 38th Army, Lieutenant General Xu Qinxian, defied an order from the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, to lead his troops to Beijing.

General Xu took no part in the subsequent killing of hundreds of protesters around Tiananmen Square, which is now quietly referred to in China simply as ”June 4” and remains the worst incident of direct military violence against Chinese people in the People’s Republic’s 60-year history. The bloodshed split the People’s Liberation Army as it did the Communist Party and the country. ”The case of General Xu is representative of the dissenting voice within the military,” said Warren Sun, an authority at Monash University on the Communist Party’s internal history . ”Deng held a real fear of a possible military coup,” he said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Censorship, Chinese Model, Communications, Media, Nationalism, Politics, Strategy, The Age, Tiananmen 20th anniversary, Tiananmen security

Tiananmen leader jailed 9 years

Zhou Yongjun on the steps of the Great Hall of the People on April 22, 1989. Zhou is flanking Guo Haifeng, who is holding a scroll with the students' demands to reform China.

The man behind one of the most iconic pictures of China’s struggle for political reform has finally been caught by the Chinese. Caught in late 2008 as he sought to return home to visit his parents after the Sichuan earthquakes, via Hong Kong, he was handed over to the Chinese authorities on charges of attempted fraud. For more, check out the pro-democracy China Support Network’s writeup on Zhou here, or surf onto a blog resource on the Tiananmen incident here.

– – –

Tiananmen leader jailed 9 years
AP
Source – Straits Times, 20 Jan 2010

Zhang Yuewei, girlfriend of Chinese dissident Zhou Yongjun, displays a picture of Zhou after a press conference in Hong Kong. -- PHOTO: AP

BEIJING – A FORMER Chinese democracy movement leader who was controversially handed over to mainland China from Hong Kong has been sentenced to nine years in prison on the charge of attempted fraud, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Zhou Yongjun was sentenced last Friday in the southwestern city of Shehong after an initial hearing on Nov. 19, Chen Zerui told The Associated Press. He was also fined 80,000 yuan (S$16,356), but planned to appeal his conviction, Mr Chen said. A duty officer reached by phone at the court confirmed Zhou’s conviction, but said he had no knowledge of the sentence or other details.

Zhou captured global attention in 1989 by kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square in a plea for China’s communist leaders to acknowledge student calls for political reforms and an end to corruption. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people are believed to have been killed in the army’s crackdown on the demonstrations. Many veterans of the movement who were not exiled continue to suffer government harassment.

Zhou had been living in the United States since smuggling himself out of China in 1993, but was arrested in August 2008 while attempting to enter Hong Kong on a phony Malaysian passport bearing the name Wang Xingxiang. Supporters say he was planning on returning to mainland China to visit his elderly parents and accuse Hong Kong’s government of violating its own laws in sending him to the mainland.

Mr Chen says the case stems from a complaint by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bank about a suspicious request for the transfer of funds out of an account registered to Wang Xingxiang – the name in Zhou’s fake passport. The signature on the transfer form did not match that of the original account holder and the name Wang Xingxiang was placed on a money laundering watch list, according to Chen.

He said the amount of the attempted fraud was listed as HK$6 million, but declined to give other details of the case or Zhou’s defense. Zhou denied the fraud charge, saying he was the victim of bad luck and mistaken identity. He says he obtained the fake passport through an immigration agency, a common practice among Chinese exiles who often find themselves stateless after Beijing refuses to renew their passports. — AP

Filed under: Back to China, Human Rights, Politics, Straits Times, Tiananmen 20th anniversary

Forget Tiananmen, thus spake Confucius

Selected bits of Confucianism have been embedded in the Singapore educational system for a good part of three decades now, as part of Singapore’s quest in its youth to nation build and define some manner of national identity and mantra. Yes my friends that’s where filial piety and notions of meritocracy and hierarchy come from, at least in the Chinese context.

During this time, China has been having a love/hate affair of the system of thought that has shaped many facets of its identity and thought, much thanks to the cultural revolution where it was ‘accused’ of being feudal in nature and thus backward for the newly minted communist mode back in the mid 20th century. It looks like it’s developing a fashionable comeback, and its been timed really nicely to fill the headspace of the people.

Much talk have surfaced since Tiananmen of how Western-styled democracy was the pipe dream, but ultimately not suitable for the Chinese. Why copy the West when all the Chinese need to do is revisit age-old philosophies that served them well for millennia? All it needed was a contemporary update. A 2.0 of sorts. And here’s a great article from the Asia Times on the celebration of how China seems to have found its own culturally sensitive method to less seemingly hard-handed governance, and give people a purpose that was so Chinese, and so divine, like the old dynastic days.

Essentially, we are looking at an updated Communism that is less ‘authoritarian’ and more ‘traditionally rooted’, and hence ‘easier to accept’ by the masses. It’s also interesting to note that Confucius Institutes have been ‘seeded’ around the world (there are 4 in Australia alone, and 328 in 82 countries as of April 2009) to promote understanding of Chinese culture, a move some see, as the Chinese government extending its influence via academia with the soft power imposition of cultural capital. Now, when the Institutes grow to the projected 1000 mark by 2020, that’ll be a lot of cultural muscle to flex.

Forget Tiananmen, thus spake Confucius
By Antoaneta Bezlova
3 June 2009
Source – Asia Times

BEIJING – Tiananmen Square is history. Or at least that is the belief shared by many on the campus of China’s top university.

Students at the distinguished Beijing University, or Beida – once a hotbed of political activism and now at the forefront of China’s attempts to project soft power around the world – no longer commemorate June 4, 1989, when the Communist Party ordered a military assault on thousands of unarmed students protesting for democracy at Tiananmen Square.

In the early 1990s, clandestine candlelight vigils were held on that date on the banks of Beida’s No Name Lake. Small groups of students holding candles would form circles and talk about the Beijing Spring of 1989 and its quest for democracy. Hidden in the dark, these gatherings would last for an hour or so before they were dispersed by university security.

On summer nights in the lead-up to the anniversary, some students would play a dangerous game of hide-and-seek with the guards, throwing bottles out of their dormitory windows – a symbolic gesture of protest against the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s decision to call out tanks against unarmed civilians in Tiananmen Square. (Xiaoping is a homonym for “bottle” in Chinese.)

After all, Beida is where the trouble for the communist leadership started in 1989 – with a few political posters and student meetings swelling to protest marches to Tiananmen Square, continuing all through the spring with peaceful sit-ins in the square and hunger strikes to bolster demands for political reform.

On a recent day in late May, this writer – a student herself at Beijing University in those years – retraced the sites of stealthy student gatherings and audacious small acts of defiance, but found neither. Beida’s youth still crowded the benches and grass around the serenely beautiful No Name Lake, but the conversations were not about commemorating what happened 20 years ago.

Buoyed by China’s sustained economic boom, which offers opportunities unthinkable to their parents and grandparents, Beida’s current students tend to believe that China is destined to blaze a path different than the one chartered by the 1989 student leaders.

“In 1989 they [students] all believed in Western democracy. That is why they even had the Statue of Liberty on Tiananmen Square,” a philosophy student surnamed Zheng told Inter Press Service (IPS). “But I think China should follow its own path of development in politics as well as economy, and not be a copycat of the West. We have done that long enough.”

Such confidence is partly fueled by the success of China’s authoritarian government in delivering material goods to its people. But there are other layers too: disillusionment with the Western model of liberal capitalism during this time of global financial crisis, and newfound pride in the country’s traditional culture that is feeding a revival of the Confucian political and moral ethos.

While few of the Beida students who talked to IPS openly vindicate the bloodshed that occurred in the early hours of June 4, 1989, nearly all of them said the crackdown was necessary to prevent China from veering dangerously off its chosen path.

“There would have been chaos, and our economic development would have suffered,” said another student, Lan Pingli. “But we need many years of peace, stability and economic prosperity to be able to find our own Chinese way of political governance.”

If Lan sounds uncannily like a communist propaganda apparatchik, it is because she and many others among her peers believe Beijing’s form of authoritarian governance combined with a market economy is the right formula for the world’s most populous country. They subscribe to the idea that political change will come to China not by following the Western model of parliamentarian democracy, but China’s own practices.

The Communist Party, which has long regarded Confucius as a feudal thinker, has made a flip-flop, tacitly approving a state comeback for Confucianism, and even promoting it as a key aspect of an alternative political model for China.

“Confucianism has quietly come back,” said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong, “and the communist leadership has been exploiting it to help fill the ideological vacuum and improve morality. It is a low-key revival, but it suits their needs to find a new cohesive force at a time when Marxism is dead but democracy is absent.”

China watchers say President Hu Jintao believes this country’s rampant consumerism has left an ethical vacuum that could be filled with a return to the Confucian values of honor and decency. In a recent lecture titled “The Socialist Concept of Honor and Disgrace”, he extolled Confucius’s “eight virtues”, such as plain living and public service, and warned of his “eight disgraces”, like pursuit of profit.

Some experts say the revival of Confucianism has broadened China’s political spectrum and could in the long-run serve as a basis for a new model of governance.

“What is interesting is that now there are more options on the table than compared with the 1980s, when political evolution was viewed only as a change from an authoritarian to a democratic form of government,” said political theorist Daniel Bell, author of a book on China’s new Confucianism. “In China at the moment, the spirit of experimentation is prevailing.”

Yet many believe that China’s political options have actually narrowed since the late 1980s, when the Communist Party crushed the pro-democracy protests.

“I don’t see any serious initiative on the part of the communist leadership to change the current political model,” said Cheng. “In fact, since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, party leaders have shown less and less readiness to compromise on their monopoly on power.”

Others say dressing its power in Confucian robes cannot help the Communist Party avoid accountability for the killings of untold numbers of unarmed civilians.

“Confucianism is against killing,” said writer and social critic Yu Jie. “You cannot justify a crackdown like Tiananmen on the grounds that you were trying to keep the country on its own track.”

The Communist Party has dismissed international condemnation of the violent crackdown and rebuffed all efforts to seek a re-examination of the events of June 1989. Beijing continues to defend the use of lethal force against its own citizens as a measure necessary for the stability and development of the country.

Estimates of the death toll still vary widely, from a few hundred to a few thousand.

(Inter Press Service)

Filed under: Tiananmen 20th anniversary

Tiananmen aims lost in prosperity

A very apt article that in my opinion, is a rather accurate portrayal of the Chinese youths I’ve come across, at least here in Melbourne. Have come to realise that in modern China, you can practically say and do whatever you want, bar one thing – talk about the powers that be, i.e. leave the Communist Party alone. In today’s age of Communism 2.0, what some call Authoritarian Capitalism, this much is clear: there is equivalent exchange in all things we do. I suspect, equally so, in any democracy. Whilst democracies manufacture consent, perhaps at least Communism 2.0 is less sinister, at least its intentions and boundaries are clear. Perhaps.


Tiananmen aims lost in prosperity
Source – The Age 04 June 2009
by Mary-Anne Toy

For most Chinese, affluence is more important than democratic freedoms, which is how the Government likes it.

DO CHINESE people yearn for democracy? Do they dream about being able to vote for a government or a leader? And do they approve of the job President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are doing? After three years as China correspondent for this paper, I’d say the answers are probably No, No and Yes. But no one really knows because such questions remain off limits in China today. No public pollster would dare broach them.

On the 20th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on democracy demonstrations in Beijing, Westerners might also ask whether ordinary Chinese people care about what happened in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago.

But you cannot care about something you know little about.

On June 4, 1989, China’s leaders ordered the People’s Liberation Army to open fire on unarmed protesters to end months of demonstrations around the country calling for democratic reforms and an end to corruption. Party secretary Zhao Ziyang, a reformist who argued that political reforms were necessary for stability and economic growth, was purged for refusing to endorse the military crackdown ordered by Deng Xiaoping and premier Li Peng. Zhao had gone to the Square and tried to talk the students into leaving because he feared a bloodbath. As a result, he spent 16 years under house arrest until he died, unrepentant, in 2005.

Most Chinese under the age of 30 – including millions of schoolchildren – are ignorant about this part of their country’s history. The 1989 massacre and Zhao Ziyang have been airbrushed from schoolbooks and censored in the media and, when possible, on the internet.

The June 4 “incident”, as is it is referred to on the rare occasions it is acknowledged officially, temporarily made China an international pariah, but it did force change – although not necessarily the kind the student protesters hoped for. Two decades of economic growth and increasing engagement with the rest of the world have made the Chinese people more affluent than at any time in the past 5000 years of Chinese civilisation.

Millions own their own home, are free to travel around the country and overseas, can start their own businesses and live how they please, if they can afford it. They can – if they have passports and travel outside the mainland or know how to evade internet censorship – acquaint themselves with those parts of recent history that the Communist Party prefers to remain hidden.

Current leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao acknowledge the people’s anger over corruption, environmental destruction and the growing gap between rich and poor and talk of reforms, greater democracy and rule of law.

The liberal intellectual journal Yanhuang Chunqiu daringly started mentioning Zhao Ziyang’s name last year and has so far survived attempts by party hardliners to shut it down or sack its feisty editor, Du Daozheng.

But, while 20 years of economic growth has delivered much to the Chinese people, it has not delivered the freedom to speak out loud what they may think privately if those private thoughts question Communist Party rule.

Three Chinese dissidents I met during my time in their country were later jailed. One is still in jail, another is under house arrest and the third is a broken man who has been released after recanting his former heresies (including acting for the banned Falun Gong movement and calling for the abolition of the CCP).

Another man, He Weifang, a brilliant young lawyer who has campaigned for an independent judiciary, has recently been banished to a small university in remote Xinjiang province. He believes this is punishment for signing last year’s Charter 08 petition calling for democratic reforms.

Twenty years after Tiananmen Square, living in China under a one-party state that controls the judiciary, the media and the armed forces, life for most of the people, most of the time, is much like it is in a democracy such as Australia or the US.

People worry about getting or keeping a job or their business surviving. They worry about their family, friends, lovers and their children. They lament the state of Chinese soccer, complain about the price of pork and health care or fret about where to send their children to school. They wonder what the purpose of life is, what the future holds.

They most probably are not lying awake at night wondering about democracy.

Perhaps, the CCP had good reason to order the army to indiscriminately fire on students and others in the streets around Tiananmen during that long night of June 4 and into the morning of June 5.

Perhaps if they had not ended the protests, China would have become ungovernable. Perhaps, if they were aware of the situation, the Chinese people would have accepted that force was necessary and that the Communist Party was the only institution strong enough to steer China into its current prosperity.

But the citizens of the People’s Republic of China don’t know and can’t have that discussion because the inescapable conclusion 20 years after Tiananmen is that China’s leaders do not trust the Chinese people.

The Chinese leadership will not risk open debate about 1989 because they fear it could be the thread that unravels the legitimacy of their rule.

Mary-Anne Toy is an Age senior writer. She was China correspondent from 2005 to 2008.

Filed under: Tiananmen 20th anniversary

Tiananmen Anniversary overshadowed

As shared in an earlier post, it will be intriguing to see how the world responds to China’s growing influence. It looks like I was not far off. This just in today. Looks like China is indeed going to get away with it. I think the ‘China threat to the status quo’ is now officially in attendance, if the US maintains such a relatively sedentary stance. Of course, there will be other interesting political dynamics in play, but at least to the lay person, it would seem a new boss is in the house.

Anniversary overshadowed
Straits Times Online 04 June 2009

WASHINGTON – ACTIVISTS looking to highlight the 20th anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown at Tiananmen Square are finding their efforts overshadowed by the emergence of a China crucial to US economic and diplomatic efforts around the world.

Washington has had daily activities this week related to June 4, 1989, when China sent tanks and troops to crush demonstrations and shoot demonstrators seeking to remake authoritarian Chinese system. There have been congressional hearings, appearances by the ‘Three Heroes of Tiananmen’ and other activists, photo exhibits and candlelight vigils.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement on Wednesday that China, as an emerging global power, ‘should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal.’

But none of the commemorations of Tiananmen has demanded the attention that US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s trip to China this week to secure economic cooperation from the single-biggest holder of US debt.

Beijing’s importance to America was further underscored by a Chinese company’s purchase of the unit of bankrupt General Motors Corp. that makes Hummer sport utility vehicles and by worsening tensions with North Korea, where Chinese leverage is seen as key to getting the North to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

Also Wednesday, the Obama administration’s chief climate negotiator said China is critical to making any international agreement to reduce emissions blamed for global warming work. As the United States works to secure cooperation from a powerful, economically dynamic China, it has become difficult for activists to draw attention to the Tiananmen events and to claims that China abuses its citizens’ rights.

Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in China’s ‘laogai’ labour camp system, said the Obama administration’s position on China is understandable but frustrating. The reason that events on Tiananmen are overshadowed, he said, is clear: ‘Because China is holding so much bonds. Because China became a major producer of the United States.’ China holds an estimated US$1 trillion (S$1.5 trillion) in US government debt.

Mrs Clinton has called the US-China relationship the world’s most important. In February, she angered activists and delighted China by saying during a trip to Beijing that the United States would not let its human rights concerns interfere with cooperation with Beijing on global crises.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, facing questions about Mrs Clinton’s February comments, said human rights are ‘paramount on our list.’ But Mrs Clinton is ‘communicating that we’re not going to take a cookie-cutter approach to human rights,’ Mr Crowley said.

‘She is interested in making sure that we address this in a way that is going to be most effective. In some cases, that will be public. In some cases, that will be private. In some cases, that will be both.’ Beijing has never allowed an independent investigation into the military’s crushing of the 1989 protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed. — AP

Filed under: Tiananmen 20th anniversary

China blocks Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

To compound matters, China has decided to reinstate its great Firewall (reminiscent of Chinese culture for the past two millennia… when in doubt, build walls to keep the foreign invaders out.) just before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen incident.

It’ll be interesting to observe what governments will say about this. The citizen journalist and everyday person would of course be up in arms – but let’s see how the world powers deal with this. Will they be sensitized in the wake of China’s newfound global authority?

China blocks Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail ahead of Tiananmen anniversary
Internet crackdown blocks “young generation” as leading dissident is detained in Beijing
by Tania Branigan in Beijing 2 June 2009
Source – The Guardian UK

Chinese censors blocked access to Twitter and other popular online services today , two days before the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

The move came amid increasing pressure on dissidents, in a reflection of the authorities’ anxiety ahead of the sensitive date. Hundreds died as the army forced its way through Beijing to clear away demonstrators from the capital’s political heart in June 1989, but the issue is taboo on the mainland.

The photo-sharing site Flickr, email service Hotmail and other services were also unavailable this evening.

“Twitter is a tool which can put all the sensitive things and sensitive guys together, very quickly. That’s the very thing that the Chinese government doesn’t want to see in China,” said one blogger, Michael Anti, who had predicted Twitter would not be allowed for long.

“They needed time to figure out what it is and whether it needed to be controlled.”

He added: “I don’t know whether they will reopen Twitter after 4 June. I hope they will, for Twitter is a crucial icon for the new internet era on which many innovations emerge. China can’t block their young generation from the future.”

While most Chinese internet users rely on domestic services, which are heavily monitored and controlled, Twitter had become hugely popular among an urban elite. They used the site to share information on sensitive issues in recent months, such as the fire at the Chinese state television complex.

But while people could not access the site this evening, some users were still able to tweet, sending their complaints about the ban.

“We netizens were beaten by a ‘combination blow’. So many famous websites are not accessible now … This time, it is huge,” wrote user williamlong.

Reuters reported that the email service Hotmail was also blocked across the mainland, while some internet users said they were unable to access Microsoft’s Windows Live.

Blogger.com was blocked last month and YouTube has been inaccessible from the mainland since March.

Internet monitors have also shut down message boards on more than 6,000 websites affiliated with colleges and universities, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

In a statement distributed by the same organisation, the exiled former student leader Chai Ling appealed for the release of political prisoners, an independent investigation into the events and permission for former student leaders to return home.

“The current generation of leaders who bear no responsibility should have the courage to overturn the verdicts [on the protests],” said Chai, who now lives in the US and has not commented on the issue for several years.

“The party and the government long ago reached a conclusion about the political incident that took place at the end of the 1980s and related issues,” spokesman Qin Gang said when asked about the issue at the Foreign Ministry’s regular news conference. The Chinese authorities deemed the protests counterrevolutionary riots.

In Taizhou, Zhejiang, officials have detained a former prisoner who last week co-signed an open letter to the government complaining about economic discrimination against dissidents, according to US-based group Human Rights in China.

Wu Gaoxing and four other men who were jailed for supporting the 1989 pro-democracy protests said former prisoners were struggling to survive because they could not find steady jobs and are deprived of medical benefits and pensions.

Calls to Taizhou’s state security bureau rang unanswered.

Another signatory, Mao Guoliang, told the Associated Press: “I expect he’s being held under some form of house arrest, but I don’t know where.”

Filed under: Tiananmen 20th anniversary

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