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The ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are having wide-ranging effects on Chinese social media, as the government there attempts to suppress all knowledge of what is happening in its Special Administrative Region (SAR).
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Instagram is down in large parts of China, with speculation that the government is concerned about the rapid dissemination of pictures from the Hong Kong protests. The Journal says: “Temporary tightening of social media censorship is common in China during protests or other politically sensitive events, such as the recent 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Some Western social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are blocked most of the time.”
The Hong Kong demonstrations began to swell on Sept. 26, when student groups demanding campaigning for increased political autonomy and democracy for Hong Kong were arrested. The protests took a dangerous turn last Sunday morning, Pacific Time, when Hong Kong police fired up to 87 tear gas canisters into the crowds and indiscriminately using pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the thousands that had blocked the main roads in downtown Hong Kong.
Pictures of the overly heavy-handed response from the police coupled with protesters fending off pepper spray with goggles and umbrellas went viral around the world, and quickly the movement was dubbed the Umbrella Revolution on social media. Since that Sunday, and following widespread criticism, Hong Kong police have taken a more softly-softly approach, and the demonstrations themselves have been almost entirely peaceful.
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