Tiananmen Anniversary Makes Money Transfers in China Trickier

Views Of Tiananmen Gate Ahead Of China's National People's Congress
Paramilitary police officers stand during the daily national flag-lowering ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Monday, March 2, 2015. China's annual meeting of the National People's Congress, which begins March 5 in Beijing, is expected to set government policies for the year on issues ranging from economic growth to military spending and pollution. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Users of one of China’s most-popular Internet messaging services couldn’t transfer money in amounts with numbers linked to the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown in the run up to Thursday’s 26th anniversary of the 1989 event.

Attempts in Beijing to transfer money values containing “64” -- a reference to the June 4 date when soldiers and tanks dispersed pro-democracy demonstrators -- and “89” via Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat app were unsuccessful on Wednesday night.

Instead, WeChat’s “red envelope” function showed a text box saying “Transaction error. Try again later.” when users tried to send amounts including 89 yuan and 6.4 yuan. Transfers not containing the sensitive numbers went through as normal.

It’s not clear whether Tencent censored the amounts on purpose. Calls to the company’s office weren’t answered after normal business hours on Wednesday and a spokeswoman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail.

China has been tightening its control over the Internet since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. This Monday, China’s top cyberspace regulator, Lu Wei, said that the public needs to be educated to become “good netizens.”

Internet censors in China seek to prevent commemoration and online discussion of the anniversary of the crackdown, when troops killed and injured hundreds of people in central Beijing.

Ma Huateng, Tencent’s founder and chief executive, is a member to China’s top legislature. Xi visited the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen in December 2012, a month after taking power.

WeChat had 549 million monthly active users at the end of the first quarter and the mobile version of QQ, also owned by Tencent, had 603 million users, according to an earnings statement last month. The “red envelope” function of WeChat lets users send as much as 200 yuan ($32) at a time to each other.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai

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