Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

When posts are banned or blocked on social media in China, a notice is often given: "In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, some results have not been displayed." On and around June 4, when censorship was at its highest, some Twitter users marked the occasion by mocking the censors' heavy-handedness: 

@8r8c : "Yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow" have all become "sensitive words." At last, "according to relevant laws and policies," Sina has entered the fourth dimension.

  9:24 PM - 4 Jun 12 [translation my own]

Some twitter users also joked that calls to Sina to complain about the censorship had been answered by employees in tears, perhaps unable to withstand the deluge of discontent. Whether or not this is the case, there's no denying Sina employees and government censors had it rough for a couple of days. But while Sina Weibo, a microblog platform with more registered users than there are people in the US, experienced heavy censorship, Twitter carried on as usual (to my knowledge). Many Chinese users accessed the site through VPNs and posted Tiananmen-related content, honoring those who died and criticizing those who had a hand in it. One user wrote:

@xiasinet : My dad went on a month-long business trip to Beijing from May to June of 1989, and my mom, back home, spent the whole time worrying. He told me it was popular at that time to make the peace sign. He would often get students on bicycles to give him a ride, and when they said goodbye to each other, they would give each other the peace sign. Eleven years later I was going off to Beijing for college. He had one warning: don’t get involved in political movements. #MyMemoryofTiananmen

3:11 AM - 1 Jun 12 [translation my own]

Remembering Tiananmen involves, at its core, thinking about yesterday, today, and tomorrow: how the past shapes the future, and how the future shapes the present. The protesters that year had goals they wanted realized, goals largely abandoned for decades out of disillusionment and taken up only by those whom society at large deemed out of touch with reality. 

Activist Chen Guangcheng said last week that he believed the coming of democracy in China was "slow but irreversible," and that he was confident it would arrive during his lifetime. Personally, I know little and understand less. I cannot say what I believe to be likely, only what I would like to believe. It seems to me, though, that whether change comes in 5 years or 500, the best way to honor the memory of those who held such hope in their hearts is to cultivate hope in our own.

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