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China censors last year’s ‘Bridge man’ protest ahead of 34th Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun04’23) – China’s censors have scrubbed the internet of any words or symbols that could be used to reference the Tiananmen Square massacre in the run-up to its banned anniversary on Jun 4. And apart from blocking access to the Tiananmen Square, Chinese authorities have targeted a new site as well this time: a bridge, also in Beijing, where a rare protest was staged last year, reported the AFP Jun 2, citing media reports.

In Hong Kong, where the anniversary used to be marked with massive demonstrations, eight people were detained near a park, four of them for “seditious intention and disorderly conduct”, as authorities tightened security on the 34th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, reported Reuters as well as the AP Jun 4, citing police.

The city’s public commemoration this year was muted under a Beijing-imposed national security law that prosecuted or silenced many Hong Kong activists.

Three leaders of the group that used to organize the vigil were charged with subversion under the law, said the AP report. The group itself was disbanded in 2021, after police informed it that it was under investigation for working on behalf of foreign groups, an accusation the group denied.

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The bridge sensitivity relates to the fact that on Oct 13, 2022, white banners with large red characters criticising the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were hung over the bridge near Beijing’s university district in advance of a major CCP congress, it was widely reported at that time, including by The Guardian.

And now, pictures posted on social media show that the road sign for Sitong Bridge has been removed. Searches on Baidu for “Sitong Bridge” return the message: “No related places were found,” said the AFP report.

The Oct 2022 Sitong Bridge banners called for “freedom”, “respect” and the right to be “citizens, not slaves,” as well as the removal of Xi Jinping, China’s leader, who was about to begin an unprecedented third term as the CCP’s general secretary.

The man responsible for the banners, Peng Lifa, was detained by police shortly after they appeared and has not been seen since. He has come to be known as the Bridge Man, after the Tank Man of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Peng’s stunt precipitated the White Paper protests, which called for an end to the zero-Covid policy that swept Chinese cities in late November and early December 2022. It was a period of mass unrest the likes of which have not been seen in China since 1989, the report said, citing The Guardian report.

The military suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy protests left a still unknown number of people dead and discussions and commemorations have been forbidden in the country ever since.

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