Hong Kong: China censored the country’s top e-commerce live streamer, Li Jiaqi, after he and his co-host presented the audience with a plate of Viennetta ice cream from the British brand Wall’s, resembling a tank on the eve of June 4 – Tiananmen Square massacre day.
The incident took place on Friday, when Li’s event was ended abruptly when the layered ice cream, garnished with Oreo cookies on its sides and what appeared to be a chocolate ball and a chocolate stick on top, which resembled the shape of a tank, was presented to the audience, reported CNN.
For decades, the Chinese government has sought to erase all memories of its bloody military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, especially around the anniversary of June 4.
But the fiasco has led his fans to ask about the Tiananmen Square massacre, as many young Chinese — especially those born after the massacre — have grown up with little knowledge of the tragedy.
This year too, China attempted a crackdown on protest, but it backfired, drawing attention to and prompting questions about the massacre from previously oblivious young Chinese internet users.
On the eve of June 4, 1989, Chinese leaders sent in tanks and heavily armed troops to clear Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where student protesters had gathered for weeks to demand democracy and greater freedoms.
The crackdown, which killed hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters, is shunned in classrooms and strictly censored in the media and online. Censors are particularly vigilant in the lead-up to its anniversary, swiftly scrubbing even the vaguest references — from candle emojis to coded phrases like “May 35” — from the internet, reported CNN.
Many of Li’s mostly young fans were puzzled by the sudden suspension of his show.
“What on earth happened to Li Jiaqi? All of a sudden his live stream is gone. Can anyone who knows about it tell us?” a user asked on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
Shortly after his live stream was cut, Li told his 50 million followers on Weibo that his team was fixing a “technical glitch” and asked them to “wait for a moment.”
Two hours later, he apologized in another post that the live broadcast could no longer resume that evening due to “a failure of our internal equipment.”
On Monday, a search for Li’s name no longer returned relevant results on Taobao, the online shopping site where Li’s show was live-streamed. He boasts 60 million followers on the site, reported CNN.
On Weibo, posts and comments linking the suspension of Li’s broadcast to the tank-shaped ice cream started to proliferate.
Some fans said they found out about the sensitivity of the tank symbol by circumventing China’s Great Firewall of online censorship, alluding to the massacre as “that event.”
The discussions happened in veiled terms under the watchful eyes of censors, and many of them disappeared soon after they were posted.
Similar incidents have happened before. Last year, Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social app similar to Instagram, had its Weibo account shut down after the company asked in a post on June 4: “Tell me loudly, what is the date today?” (ANI)