As student protests hit Hong Kong, authorities are desperate to censor images of violent clashes and tear gas
Following the pro-democracy protests that have rattled the streets of Hong Kong this weekend, it appears that Instagram has been banned in mainland China in a bid to stop images of the demonstrations – especially of fights between police and protesters – from reaching Chinese netizens.
According to the website watchdog Blocked In China, Instagram is now banned across the entirety of the country after photos tagged #occupycentral hit social networks. It's a frightening throwback to the horrors of the media blackout of the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which the Chinese government still denies today.
Reuters also reports that the phrase #occupycentral has been blocked on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, though some support for the Hong Kong demonstrations has managed to find its way onto the social network:
#OccupyCentral was initially intended to be a peaceful protest taking place this Wednesday, a public holiday in Hong Kong. However, students responsible for leading class boycotts stormed a government building over the weekend, igniting a government crackdown on the streets. Officers are using tear gas and pepper spray against protesters, with the demonstration dubbed the "umbrella revolution" after protesters began using them to protect themselves from tear gas. It's this tear gas that Chinese authorities don't want the rest of the population in mainland China to see:
#OccupyCentral has laid claim to Hong Kong's financial district to protest the government's decision to allow only pre-approved candidates to stand in elections for chief executive, the highest ranking civil position in Hong Kong. In a country that is perceived by some Hong Kong residents as being under the ever-tightening grip of the Chinese government, the protests are a direct call to democracy.
Over 40 people have incurred injuries during the protests so far and Hong Kong's police force is bracing itself for another night of violence tonight. The government has cancelled National Fireworks Day in light of the pro-democracy protests, with a statement from the Hong Kong government stating that there were "public safety considerations".
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