A photograph of two female athletes hugging after a race appears to have been censored by social media in China after making a reference to a dark incident in the country’s history.
Chinese athlete Lin Yuwei was pictured embracing her teammate Wu Yanni after she won gold, with a time of 12.74 seconds, in the women’s 100m hurdles final at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last week.
However, as the pair stood together, Lin, who was running in lane four, and Wu, who was in lane six, formed the number 64 with numbers attached to their hips.
In China, the number 64 is widely perceived to be a reference to June 4, 1989 – the day of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
That day, peaceful demonstration for democracy turned deadly when hundreds of people were shot dead after troops stormed the streets and opened fire.
It is not known how many were killed but it is estimated to be more than 1000.
In the decades since, references to the massacre and the protests that preceded remain widely censored on the internet in China.
Following the race, which took place on China’s National Day on October 1, state broadcaster CCTV posted the photo of the athletes on Weibo, China’s social media platform, on Sunday night. But it was quickly removed from its account about an hour later, according to CNN.
State news agency Xinhua also reportedly published the photo in an article but cropped out the athletes’ lane numbers.
However, it appears the image was not completely removed from the internet, with some Chinese news articles still clearly depicting the numbers.
The race was already marred in controversy when Wu and India’s Jyothi Yarraji were given red cards for a false start.
After protesting the decision, Wu was allowed to run and placed second. However, she was later disqualified following a review.
Yarraji, who was also allowed to run, ended up claiming silver in the time of 12.91 seconds.
“I am very sorry that I was disqualified due to a false start,” Wu wrote on social media.
“I failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and disappointed everyone.”
Three decades on from the Tiananmen Square massacre, demonstrations still take place to mark the incident.
In June, over 20 people were detained in Hong Kong after they were suspected of “breaching the peace” when trying to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the event.
In Taiwan, hundreds gathered at Taipei’s Liberty Square to chant “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” and lit candles in the shape of “8964”.