Tiananmen Date Match Bars Searches for China Stock Index
Searches for “Shanghai Composite” were blocked from China’s most-used microblogging service after the stock index’s drop on the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown corresponded to the date of the event.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped by 64.89 (SHCOMP) points yesterday, matching the date on which Chinese authorities crushed student-led protests on June 4, 1989. Queries for “Shanghai Composite” on Sina Corp.’s Twitter-like Weibo service returned a message that said results can’t be displayed “in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.”
China strictly prohibits references to the crackdown, in which hundreds of protesters were killed by troops, as part of the government’s censorship of websites, newspapers and television that bars criticism of the ruling Communist Party. This year, authorities are also trying to ensure a smooth leadership transition scheduled for later in 2012 and seeking stability after the suspension of Politburo member Bo Xilai.
“It’s difficult to orchestrate but the coincidence is just mind-boggling,” Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a phone interview yesterday.
Queries for “Shanghai Composite” on the website of Baidu Inc. (BIDU), China’s most-used Internet search engine, returned results that showed the index’s decline. Other websites including Sina’s financial news portal and that of China Finance Online Co. also carried stock market reports with the index’s drop in points.
“We didn’t see anything abnormal in the market,” said Chen Ji, spokesman for the Shanghai Stock Exchange. “We don’t have any further comment.”
Sina’s Weibo service, with more than 300 million registered users, has been subject to increased scrutiny. The company, along with rival Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700), were ordered to disable the comment function on their microblog services for 72 hours in March after authorities detained six people accused of spreading rumors of a coup attempt in Beijing.
Cathy Peng, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Sina, didn’t immediately answer calls to her office after normal work hours.
In December, China began requiring microblog users in cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to register their real names. That rule will be expanded to other regions, Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, said in January.
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