While journalists gripe about how the Trump administration is making their jobs more difficult, the Chinese government demonstrated this week that they were willing to arrest journalists for bringing up a censored topic to its citizens. A CBS News crew was arrested for showing Chinese citizens pictures of the Tiananmen Square massacre on its 30th anniversary.
What’s the background?
In 1989, the Chinese military entered Tiananmen Square and opened fire on civilian protesters who had gathered there to speak out against the oppressive communist government. At least several hundred people were killed, thousands more were arrested, and dozens were executed for their participation.
Since then, the Chinese government has worked to silence any attempt to commemorate or remember the massacre. Mentions of what happened that day are kept out of textbooks, and all pictures of it are banned.
What happened now?
In a segment that was broadcast on Monday evening, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer can be seen asking people on the streets of China.
“Have you ever heard of these events?” Palmer asked, holding up the infamous photo of a lone protester in Tiananmen Square standing in front of a Chinese tank.
“I think not,” responded the young man she was interviewing.
“No idea? What country?” she asked another man.
“I have no idea,” he said. Two other interviewees also seemed confused by her questions.
Her questions quickly drew the attention of local authorities.
“Minutes later,” Palmer said, “the police showed up. And we ended up in custody for six hours.”
The BBC tried a similar experiment on Monday, and likewise found that the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens were unfamiliar with images from the massacre. It does not appear that the BBC correspondent was arrested, although the last man he interviewed snapped, “How dare you show this image around here?”