‘89’ too close to ‘Tiananmen’ for China’s online censors




One of our Observers in China has sent us a screen grab of his phone showing an instance of clear censorship. Using the popular mobile messaging app LINE, he and a friend were texting each other to try to figure out what time they should meet for dinner. Our Observer suggested 8pm or 9pm. However, he got the following message…



The Chinese characters for “89” without a doubt blocked because they could refer to 1989, that is, the year of the Tiananmen Square massacre.


Curious, he tried texting the names of a few of China’s top politicians as well as dissidents; these, too, were censored.


Chinese users of LINE, which is owned by a Japan-based company, began seeing censorship of their messages last year. “Tienanmen Square” was one of the first terms they noticed was censored, though “89”, on its own, appears to be a new addition. Activists have since compiled lists of censored terms. Among them are words pertaining to the Bo Xilai scandal, Falun Gong, the Jasmine revolution, Tibetan self-immolations, and … censorship.