News Home » World » Chinese censors remove protest site Sitong Bridge from online maps

Around the World

Chinese censors remove protest site Sitong Bridge from online maps

Wille Okon 143 June 2, 2023

Chinese censors scrubbing the internet of any words or symbols that could be used to reference the Tiananmen Square massacre in the run-up to Sunday’s anniversary have a new target in their sights: a bridge in Beijing where a rare protest was staged last year.

As the 34th anniversary of the 1989 massacre approaches, anyone searching in Chinese for Sitong Bridge on Baidu maps will draw a blank.

On 13 October 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.

According to pictures posted on social media, the road sign for Sitong Bridge has been removed. Searches on Baidu for Sitong Bridge return the message: “No related places were found.”

It is still possible to search for the bridge using the traditional Chinese characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, rather than the simplified characters used on the mainland. And it is still possible to find related locations, such as “Sitong Bridge East” – a nearby bus stop – on Baidu.

October’s 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 become known as Bridge Man, a reference to 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. It was a period of mass unrest the likes of which have not been seen in China since 1989.

The Tiananmen Square massacre is one of the most sensitive topics in China. Discussion of the event, in which hundreds of protesters who had been calling for political reform were killed by the People’s Liberation Army, is strictly controlled.

Over the years activists have found creative ways of referring to the event, such as “May 35th”, a covert reference to June 4th, the numbers of which are periodically banned from social media.

The character for “Si” in “Sitong Bridge” is the same as the character for four, making it especially sensitive. The anniversary has sometimes been called “internet maintenance day” because of the number of websites that go offline.

Additional research by Chi Hui Lin