One faceless man represents the events of June 4, 1989 in China's Tiananmen Square. Known to the world mostly as "the tank man," the figure stood in front of a line of Chinese tanks sent to break up student demonstrations demanding democratic rights.
But as Quartz reported on the eve of the incident's 25th anniversary, just 15 out of 100 university students in Beijing are familiar with the iconic photograph. Since an official death toll was never released, it's unknown how many Chinese demonstrators were killed during a military crackdown at the square.
The decision has incited online discussion about the state of China's policy and silence about the protests. Some, like Chinese media activist Jeremy Goldkorn, are bemoaning China's apparent success in keeping about one-third of its population (those under age 25) ignorant of the event.
"The education system and the vast apparatus that censors the Chinese media and Internet have done such a formidable job at eliminating references to the events of 1989 that many young people are unaware of what happened or have only a faint notion of what happened," Goldkorn told AFP.
One of these people from the "jiulinghougeneration" (the about 135 million Chinese born in the 1990s) wrote an anonymous column for Foreign Policy Magazine recently. In it, he describes how he didn't learn the whole truth about Tiananmen Square until coming to the U.S. for an education.
"It was not until I had lived for years in the United States, and become fluent in English, that I finally uncovered more facts through foreign journalists' accounts," he wrote.
He also wrote that the Internet age has endangered rather than enabled any sort of resistance in China.1 comment on this story
"Before the digital era, officials didn't have the ability to eavesdrop on every conversation. But now, if I post something politically sensitive online, the conversation is digitally recorded. Everything becomes part of our permanent record," he wrote.
With restrictions tighter than ever, Mashable reported that censorship watchdog website GreatFire.org is providing a loophole for the curious in China.
"GreatFire.org has built a website that mirrors Google's capabilities. It's hosted on the cloud, which is used by many national companies, meaning Chinese authorities would risk damaging business interests if they were to take it down," Colin Daileda wrote.