From today’s New York Times:
Maybe it was just a coincidence, but when the Shanghai Stock Exchange fell 64.89 points on Monday — uncannily echoing the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy students on June 4, 1989, exactly 23 years earlier — the Chinese blogosphere went into a tizzy.
. . . Whatever the reason, the strange trick that the stock market played on the Chinese Communist Party sent the country’s censors scrambling as well, prompting them to undertake unusually strenuous efforts to block references to the tragedy, which Chinese leaders have tried desperately to erase from their country’s consciousness.
In a nation where numerology is taken very seriously, the censors quickly began blocking searches for “stock market,” “Shanghai stock,” “Shanghai stock market,” “index” and related terms. They also deleted large numbers of microblog postings about the numerical surprise.
And even before tens of thousands of demonstrators clad mostly in black gathered at Victoria Park in Hong Kong for an annual candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen killings, censors were also blocking searches for “Victoria Park,” “black clothes,” “silent tribute” and even “today.”
Not only did the broad index of the Shanghai exchange fall 64.89 points on Monday, but the index also opened that morning at 2346.98, a figure that, to some, looked like the date of the crackdown written backward, followed by the 23rd anniversary.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index is calculated by adding up the market capitalizations of hundreds of stocks and then converting the sum into an index based on a value of 100 on Dec. 19, 1990. Richard W. Kershaw, the managing director for Asia forensic technology at FTI Consulting, a global financial investigations company, said that it would be almost impossible for anyone to coordinate the buying and selling of so many stocks to produce a specific result.
But hackers have targeted the computer systems at other stock exchanges in the past, and Mr. Kershaw said it was at least possible that this might have occurred in China. He predicted that the government would investigate, adding, “You can bet we’ll never hear the results.”
Chinese culture puts a very strong, sometimes superstitious, emphasis on numbers and dates. The Beijing Olympics started at 8:08 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2008, a time and date chosen for the many eights, considered an auspicious number.
Haha. I really can’t decide which would be funnier, if some hacker did this or if the censors are just fighting a paper tiger.
On the topic of internet censorship in China, I recently watched the movie Schindler’s List for the second time. The first time I had watched it was while I was in China, and while it was too long ago to be completely sure, I think it was a slightly different movie. I remembered it being much shorter and there were several scenes I didn’t remember. I don’t know, maybe the guy with the video camera fell asleep in the theater . . .