May 35th and Freedom of Expression

Wonderful piece in the New York Times about how the Chinese people use their language to express their views without bringing down the wrath of the censors and state security forces.

You might think May 35th is an imaginary date, but in China it’s a real one. Here, where references to June 4 — the date of the Tiananmen incident of 1989 — are banned from the Internet, people use “May 35th” to circumvent censorship and commemorate the events of that day.

It never ceases to amaze me how innovative people can be when they are faced with repressive regimes.

I was reminded that during the Cold War how Russians, Poles, Czechs, et al  all used humor to make a point about censorship or the lack of goods and services.

As I read the part about the difference between politicians in China and Taiwan, I was reminded an old joke about an argument between and American and a Soviet commissar.

American: In the United States we have the freedom of speech.

Russian:In Mother Russia we also have freedom of speech.

American: In the United States, I can take a soapbox, put it front of the White House, stand on it and say, “The president of the United States is a son of a bitch.”

Russian: Big deal. In Russia I too can take a soapbox, place it in Red Square in front of the Kremlin and say, “The president of the United States is a son of a bitch.”

Just change “Russian” with “Beijinger” and “Red Square”/”Kremlin” with “Tiananmen Square.”

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom

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