• Directory of Taiwan

Censorship of 'tank cake' sparks Chinese interest in Tiananmen massacre

Broadcast yanked after showing ice cream cake resembling tank on eve of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Austin Li (left) looking at ice cream cake shaped like a tank. (Twitter image)

Austin Li (left) looking at ice cream cake shaped like a tank. (Twitter image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An online show by Chinese livestreamer Austin Li (李佳琦) was suddenly yanked off the air over an ice cream cake shaped like a tank, prompting interest by Chinese youth in the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Saturday (June 4) marked the 33rd anniversary of the slaughter of hundreds to thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. On the eve of the anniversary on Friday (June 3), while hosting his popular e-commerce show, Li and his co-host presented an ice cream cake made from Viennetta ice cream.

The wheels of the "tank" were made from Oreos, while a chocolate ball served as the turret and a chocolate stick represented the cannon. Moments after the creamy contraption appeared, the live feed was suddenly interrupted, and the show went off the air.

That evening on his official Weibo account, Li wrote there had been a "backend technical failure" that his team was working to fix, and asked his followers to "please wait a moment." However, the show never reappeared. Two hours later, Li apologized to his 30 million Weibo fans and claimed that the live broadcast could not be continued due to an "internal equipment failure," but that the product broadcast would be presented again in future livestreaming episodes.

Li has yet to issue any further public statements on Weibo and searches for his name on Taobao, the online shopping site his show had been broadcasting from, no longer yield results. This has led Chinese netizens to begin to speculate on the reasons for the apparent censorship of the tank and Li's disappearance.

Fans initially speculated that Li might be undergoing punishment for tax evasion, as was the case with wealthy celebrities such as Fan Bingbing (范冰冰), who disappeared for three months in 2018 only to resurface to issue an apology after being fined US$127.4 million. However, some curious fans who breached the Great Firewall of China learned that images of tanks are a sensitive subject because of their association with the "Tiananmen Square incident," prompting censors to delete such comments.

China-based YouTuber Shia Majer on Monday (June 6) tweeted that all hashtags on Weibo related to Li have been scrubbed. Majer wrote that fans have become concerned about Li's physical safety, as he has been missing since Friday despite scheduled broadcasts for Taobao's upcoming June 18 shopping festival.

Majer added that Chinese people are grateful to Li because they "got to find out about #June4th." Given that Li was born in 1992 and China's strict censorship of the massacre for over three decades, he likely was unaware of the significance of June 4 and that tanks are taboo.

Censorship of 'tank cake' sparks Chinese interest in Tiananmen massacre
Li's co-host (right) holds up ice cream "tank cake." (Twitter image)