A seemingly innocuous photograph of two Chinese athletes embracing each other at the end of a race has been censored by authorities.
At the end of the women’s 100-meter hurdle event during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China on October 1, teammates Lin Yuwei and Qu Yanni embraced one another with their respective lane numbers “6” and “4” coming together.
6/4 is the date of the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 in which Chinese military tanks rolled into Beijing to oversee a bloody crackdown on students who were protesting for democracy.
There is no suggestion that the two athletes were staging a protest. China’s state broadcaster CCTV posted the image to its official Weibo page but later removed it about an hour afterward. Weibo is China’s Twitter-like social media platform.
As of today, the photo taken by AP’s Vicent Thian cannot be found on Weibo. According to CNN, other photos of Yuwei and Yanni can be found with their numbers displayed but less conspicuously.
The Guardian reports that image censorship on the internet in China, which bans most Western social media platforms, is done on an ad-hoc basis with humans working for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deciding which images to expunge.
— 李老师不是你老师 (@whyyoutouzhele) October 2, 2023
The race on October 1 took place on China’s National Day which is a sensitive occasion when officials might be more prone to removing anything that could be taken as a sign of dissent toward the CCP which has been in power since Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
China not only censors any critical comments about the CCP but also anything it deems to be not in keeping with the party’s values and ideology.
Last year, during the soccer World Cup, China was accused of altering the global feed to hide the fact people were in the stadium watching the game without wearing masks as authorities attempted to maintain the illusion that the strict zero-COVID rules were still in place elsewhere around the world.