Social Media Post That Angered Beijing on Tiananmen Anniversary May Have Been Celebrating Friday

A Chinese social media startup, Xiaohongshu, had its social media account shut down following a post on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Xiaohongshu, or "Little Red Book" in Chinese, is a Shanghai-based company backed by Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent. On June 4, the company posted on the Twitter-like social media website Weibo, "Tell me loudly, what is the date today?" according to a screenshot posted by Reuters.

Friday was the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where Chinese troops cracked down on pro-democracy student protesters. The date is now highly sensitive in China.

Xiaohongshu's post was quickly deleted, and by midnight Friday in China, the company's entire Weibo account was gone, the Journal reported. And according to Reuters, some online searches resulted in a message that said the account was suspended "due to complaints of violations of laws and regulations and the relevant provisions of the Weibo Community Convention."

Xiaohongshu has been described as a combination of Instagram-like social media site and an Amazon-like e-commerce site. The Weibo account had over 14 million followers prior to its suspension. The Xiaohongshu app appeared to be working normally, Reuters reported. The app has more than 100 million monthly active users.

The intent behind Xiaohongshu's social media post remains unclear, though the Journal reported someone familiar with the matter said the post was not referring to the Tiananmen Square incident.

Xiaohongshu had made similar posts on Fridays to celebrate the coming weekend in the past few months, though the company's Weibo account often posts questions as part of user engagement, Reuters reported.

An internal investigation is underway alongside the Cyberspace Administration of China, according to the Journal. The incident with Xiaohongshu is one of the most recent in a string of occurrences with technology companies involving censorship surrounding the June 4 anniversary.

Weibo logo
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 25: In this photo illustration, the Weibo logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on November 25, 2019 in Paris, France. Weibo is a Chinese microblogging social network, equivalent to Twitter, founded in 2009 by Sina Corp. Weibo suspended social media startup company Xiaohongshu's account on Friday following a post that appeared to be about the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Chesnot/Getty Images

According to Windows Central, Microsoft Corp. search engine Bing was not showing image results for "tank man," an iconic picture that depicts a lone man standing in front of a line of tanks after the Tiananmen Square protests. Google's Shane Huntley brought attention to the censor on Twitter.

I'd love to hear @BradSmi explanation on this.

I know Microsoft censor for the CCP in China, but this search is from the US.

— Shane Huntley (@ShaneHuntley) June 4, 2021

Microsoft said the blocked image results were "due to an accidental human error," and has since restored the search results.

China has maintained strict censorship surrounding the 1989 massacre, including both events in commemoration and censoring online posts. The Journal reported that posts alluding to dates, images and names that have to do with the protests are deleted automatically.

Websites such as WeChat do not allow users to change their profile pictures, which many have done in past years to an image of a lighted candle in commemoration. Posts on Weibo from embassies in Beijing about the event have been deleted, but similar posts on Twitter, which is only available through private networks, have remained.

This is the second year in a row that Hong Kong officials have banned a candlelight vigil, citing COVID-19 social distancing rules. Thousands still participated, the Journal reported.

In mainland China, the event is not taught in textbooks or acknowledged by most media. An editorial posted Friday by the state-run news outlet the Global Times said that "the leadership of the Communist Party of China has saved the fate of the nation at a critical juncture" during the 1989 protests.

Tank man
In this iconic image, a Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square. Posts and events in commemoration of the event are heavily censored by the Chinese government. via Getty Images