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China censorship: Shares fall 64.89 points on June 4, 1989 protest anniversary

Bobby Yip / Reuters

People take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Monday to commemorate those who died during the military crackdown of the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

BEIJING – Government controls many aspects of life in China, but for today at least the invisible hand of market forces proved too strong even for the country’s ruling Communist Party.

In an apparent coincidence, Shanghai’s local stock market, the Shanghai Composite Index, opened trading this morning at 2346.98 points. Read backwards, it looks like the date, June 4, 1989 – this day 23 years ago when the Communists brutally cracked down on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in the capital.

Even more bizarre? By the end of trading in the afternoon, the market had lost 64.89 points.

PhotoBlog: Thousands remember Tiananmen Square crackdown

The significance of the numbers might have passed without comment had authorities not tried to censor discussion of the anniversary by preventing users on Weibo - China’s equivalent of Twitter – from posting terms such as “six four,” “candle” and “never forget.” With users abuzz over the Shanghai Composite Index numbers, censors had to widen the list of banned terms to include the Chinese word for ‘Index’.

Hundreds of students and other civilians are estimated to have been killed in 1989 as People’s Liberation Army soldiers entered the capital to clear the streets of protesters. The topic of the crackdown is taboo in this country and little discussed aside from sanitized official accounts in textbooks that call the event a “political disturbance.”  

Security around Tiananmen Square is typically boosted before the anniversary and censors work to keep discussion to a minimum. 

June 4, 1989: NBC News reports as Chinese soldiers crush demonstrations.

State Department deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, issued a statement on Sunday urging the Chinese government to "release all those still serving sentences for their participation in the demonstrations; to provide a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families."

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, called U.S. statements on the June 4th incident a “crude meddling in domestic Chinese affairs.”

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