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The Possibility of a Hug Being a Controversial Topic of Censorship in Tiananmen Square
The Possibility of a Hug Being a Controversial Topic of Censorship in Tiananmen Square

The Possibility of a Hug Being a Controversial Topic of Censorship in Tiananmen Square

Two Chinese athletes embraced each other after the women’s 100m hurdles finals at the Hangzhou Asian Games, sparking another censorship controversy related to the Tiananmen Massacre.

On October 1, during the finals, runners Lin Yuwei and Wu Yanni competed in lanes six and four, respectively. A picture of them hugging after the race showed their short bib numbers as “64,” which could be interpreted as a reference to the events of June 4th, 1989, when a democracy movement was violently suppressed. Initially, Chinese state media and mainstream outlets did not seem to notice the unintentional symbolism in the photo and shared it widely on social media and official news sites. The top state-broadcaster, China Central Television News, included the photo in a Weibo post that reached 132 million followers. Xinhua, the top state-media outlet, also prominently featured the photo in their initial coverage of the women’s final. However, both outlets later removed the photo or article, indicating that they were made aware of its potential political implications.

Li Yuwei (left) and Wu Yanni (right) hug after the women's 100m hurdle finals. Both carry the Chinese national flag. Li has a paper bib with the lane number 6 on her right hip. Wu has the paper bib with the lane number 4 on her left hip. The photograph is framed to make "64" very prominent.

The picture of Li and Wu’s “64 embrace” was briefly shared on China Central Television News’ Weibo page.

Two screenshots of a CCTV Weibo collage of images from the women's 100m hurdle finals. The original collage includes the "64 hug." A subsequent version replaces the "64 hug" photograph with an image of Li Yuwei holding a Chinese flag above her head.

CCTV’s main Weibo account shared a screenshot of the “64 hug” image (marked in red) and later replaced it with a different image.

Posts on Weibo containing the image were removed by censorship. Afterward, various media sources posted alternative views of the hug that concealed the lane numbers of Lin and Wu. Despite being censored, the photo prompted Weibo users to contemplate the meaning behind it and the unintentional remembrance of Tiananmen.

The image of white headbands, a strong embrace, red clothing, and numbers on our national flags gives us much to ponder. Great job, photographer.

Ancestors: Only those who have done wrong are afraid of their past actions coming back to haunt them.

选择tnd大电视机:If they wouldn’t censor it, fewer people would know of it. But from Li Jiaqi’s livestream to the Asian Games, I’m awestruck by their [censorship] countermeasures.

Can you explain the Li Jiaqi Paradox? [Chinese]

After the “64 hug” photos gained widespread attention and were censored, internet users uncovered that following the semi-finals race, Wu Yanni (who competed in lane 9) hugged a Korean participant (in lane 8). The photo captured the competitors’ bibs, which together formed the number “89,” symbolizing the year of the June 4th Massacre. Multiple media sources, including state-controlled organizations, featured this image in the thumbnail for their WeChat articles.

Numerous media channels, including prominent government-run source Guangming Online and independent source Cover News, shared the “89 hug” picture on the messaging app WeChat.

Surprisingly, this is the second occurrence of the number “64” at the Asian Games. Leading up to the opening ceremony in mid-September, the People’s Daily, a publication controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, shared a video on Weibo titled “Exploring the Literature of Hangzhou.” The video featured two poems from the Song Dynasty with subtle political messages. The first poem references “June” and “four seasons,” which is often used by activists to symbolize June 4th while avoiding censorship. The second poem sarcastically criticizes corrupt politicians who spend their time drinking in Hangzhou instead of fulfilling their responsibilities. The People’s Daily later deleted the video and censors removed any mention of it on Weibo, much to the entertainment of online observers.