"Twenty years later, it is still impossible for the Chinese media to refer freely to the ruthless suppression of China’s pro-democracy movement in June 1989. References to the demonstrations that took place throughout China for several weeks and the deaths of hundreds of students and workers at the hands of the army on 4 June 1989 are still strictly censored in the media and on the Internet. The information blackout has been enforced so effectively for 20 years that most young Chinese are completely unaware of this major event.
When Chinese Internet users search for "4 June” in the photos section of Baidu, the country’s most popular search engine, they get this message: "The search does not comply with laws, regulations and policies." The same search in the video section elicits this message: "Sorry, no video corresponds to your search." If you do an ordinary Internet search for "4 June" with Baidu, you just get official Chinese statements about the “events of 4 June."
The Chinese army’s brutal crackdown on the student revolt in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 ended contemporary China’s most important pro-democracy movement. A free press was one of the main demands of the protesters as well as many journalists and journalism professors. Some are still paying the price in terms of administrative punishments, constant police surveillance or forced exile.
Several journalists, including Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sending an email about the Tiananmen Square anniversary in 2004, are still in prison for referring to the massacre. Free expression activist Liu Xiaobo, one of the leading figures of the 1989 movement, was re-arrested recently. Cyber-dissident Huang Qi, who has long campaigned for the June 1989 victims to be recognized, has been held without trial in Chengdu since June 2008 and is now seriously ill.
The censorship imposed after the "Beijing Spring" has never been relaxed. The Propaganda Department and the political police have established a system of extremely strict censorship. Self-censorship and the ignorance of the youngest generation of journalists do the rest. Why are so many resources spent on continuing to cover up a 20-year-old event when China has evolved in so many ways since 1989? “Because the Chinese leaders know they have blood on their hands,” says Renee Xia of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “They fear that if the truth comes to light, the government will be under pressure to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.”
These days, the censors are concentrating their efforts on the Internet. RSF recently conducted tests that confirm the level of online censorship.
RSF is also outraged by the blockage of a dozen websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Bing, Flickr, Opera, Live, Wordpress and Blogger in China two days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“The Chinese government stops at nothing to silence what happened 20 years ago in Tiananmen Square, "RSF said. “By blocking access to a dozen websites used daily by millions of Chinese citizens, the authorities have opted for censorship at any price rather than accept a debate about this event."
Chinese Internet users have notified RSF that access to Twitter, YouTube, Bing, Flickr, Opera, Live, Wordpress and Blogger began being blocked today inside China. RSF condemns regional variation in the blocking of access to websites in China and Tibet. The authorities unblocked the sites of certain international news media and NGOs on 1 August 2008 but many of these sites continue to be blocked in the province of Tibet.
"This regional blocking is a discriminatory measure," RSF said. "It is no surprise that websites focusing on the issue of Tibet are filtered. But it is unacceptable that Internet users in Tibet do not have access to the same content as Internet users in the rest of China, who are already subject to a significant degree of censorship."
The sites of the human rights organizations RSF and Amnesty International were inaccessible on 20 August in Tibet although they were unblocked in the rest of China on 1 August. The sites of Radio Free Asia (except its English-language version: http://www.rfa.org/english) and Voice of America (http://www.voanews.com/english/portal.cfm) were also blocked, although they are accessible in Beijing and in Shanghai. The online newspaper of the Tibetan community in exile, Potala Post (http://www.pressoftibet.com), was however accessible in Tibet, but it is hacked from March this year.
The issue of Tibet is a very sensitive one for the Chinese authorities and many websites that focus on this issue are filtered inside China, including at the main foreign press centre in Beijing. Many Tibetan writers and Tibetans in Tibet who provided news to foreign and pro-Tibetan media are facing heavy punishments in Chinese detention centers.
according to RSF report last year, these are some of pro-Tibet websites that are blocked in China: http://www.tibetpost.net, http://www.tibet.net, http://www.phayul.com, http://www.vot.org, http://www.tchrd.org, http://www.tibetonline.tv, http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org, http://www.freetibet.org, http://woeser.middle-way.net."