25 years ago in Tiananmen Square there was a protest against the Chinese government. The protest was dealt with lethal force by the government – killing many people. Since then, the Chinese government has blocked any discussion about the protest and has greatly censored information on it. Obviously all of this isn’t good news.
To curtail the efforts of propaganda artists and censors in China there are groups that are trying to ensure that we don’t forget about the protest. This is good because if we forget our collective history we deny ourselves a richer, more knowledgable, existence. If we don’t remember the people who stood up then we are joining the efforts of the government that censored their protest.
The Tiananmen Initiative Project aims to reignite discussion of the meaning of the Spring 1989 movement in China and the as yet unfulfilled promise of genuine political reform its participants sought. We aim to do this by encouraging various kinds of public meetings around the world around the time of the twenty-fifth anniversary – April 15-June 4, 2014 – of what has aptly been called the Beijing Spring.
In 1989 protestors in China took to Tiananmen Square and were confronted by tanks and the full Chinese state apparatus to shut them down. The most iconic image is the man standing in front of a row of tanks (his identity and his current whereabouts are still unknown).
Even though the protest and the clampdown happened 23 years ago this week, people are still championing human rights and increased government transparency and accountability.
Also this week, Twitter and the domestic microblogging service weibo have been abuzz with messages commemorating Tiananmen, keeping censors busy deleting or blocking 1989-related postings. And several public events have taken place in Chinese cities to mark the tragedy and break the silence.
Many 1989 generation activists and student participants in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement have carried on their advocacy through their writings or online posts, or assisting victims of rights abuses, or providing legal assistance to victims.
Google has changed how it approaches its business in China due to China trying to spy on some gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. THey have removed censorship from their search engine so now you can search for “Tiananmen Square” in China and get the same results the rest of get.
It’s a good day for internet freedom in China.
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.