Chinese characters占占点 censored in China: Look like tanks during June 4 Tiananmen Massacre

Just creative Chinese circumventing censorship.

Tan Xing Qi | June 04, 2018, 11:28 PM

I was conversing with my colleague the other day and this random trivia popped up.

Colleague: Do you know the Chinese censor the word 占?

Me: 占?

Colleague: Yes because it looks like a tank. And 点 because it looks like a tank rolling over people.

Me: You serious?

Colleague: Google it.

And I did.

Censored in China

Dr. Google brought me to this article dated June 4, 2016, which compiled a list of banned words or phrases.

This list of over 200 words and phrases came from another website called China Digital Times.

It consisted of Chinese characters, including 占 and 点, which have been wiped clean off the Chinese Internet (Sina’s Weibo) on June 4 (or leading up to it) every year.

Why June 4?

Today is June 4. While it means another soul-crushing Monday in 2018 to Singaporeans, it is the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests of 1989, which started out as a peaceful, student-led demonstration but culminated in a bloody crackdown on June 4.

If you are living in China, you would probably not have heard that the protest took thousands of lives -- up to 10,000, according to the BBC.

Because, according to another Western media The Guardian, only 15 out of 100 Beijing University students could recognise the iconic Tank Man photo.

Another uniquely Chinese phenomenon, this time brought to you by China's brand of censorship.

Creative Chinese circumventing censorship

You've probably heard of the Great Firewall of China, but even the wall couldn't keep everything out.

To weed out the memories of June 4, a combined effort of state, tech companies and manual labour are needed.

Back to the banned list of words and phrases: What struck me was the evolution of the search terms. The list was compiled from 2011 to 2016.

For instance, the most basic/ commonsensical thing to search for is the date itself. So, naturally, "June 4, 1989" and other permutations were censored and were among the first search terms to be included on the list.

Without saying, all other “basic” keywords like anniversary, massacre and Tiananmen were included.

A year later, things got more creative. Instead of 六四 (June 4), netizens used 五四+一个月 (May 4 + 1 month), 占占人 (pictogram signifying Tank Man) etc.

Every year, Chinese netizens came up with more terms as an act of rebellion. viiv (roman numerals for 6 and 4), 敏感词 (sensitive word — lol so meta), 8的平方 (square of eight), 陆+肆 (homonyms of six + four), 535 (May 35 or June 4) and the 占占点 占点占 (pictogram signifying the crushing of protestors).

One could describe it as an arms race between the state and the netizens.

Feeling suitably educated by the Chinese ways, I went back to my colleague.

Me: Holy sh*t. The Chinese are really creative. Look what I found.

Source: Weibo

Colleague: B*tch please.

Source: Weibo

Source: Weibo


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