Leica comes under fire for video featuring Tiananmen Square massacre

Sophia Yan
This iconic image is shown in 'The Hunt', a promotional video for Leica - Getty Images Fee

German camera brand Leica has come under fire in China after the release of a promotional video that features the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

The video, released earlier this week, comes just weeks before the 30th anniversary of the student-led demonstrations were shut down after Chinese soldiers fired at protesters.

The five-minute Leica-branded clip follows a Western photographer in a Beijing hotel in 1989 who is confronted by police when he attempts to go outside to document the shooting of student protesters.

At the end, he manages to get away and hovers by a window, adjusting his camera to shoot the iconic photo, “Tank Man,” a picture of a lone man standing in front of a convoy of tanks.

“This film is dedicated to those who lend their eyes to make us see,” the screen says, commemorating photojournalists working in hostile environments.

F/Naza Saatchi & Saatchi, the Brazilian advertising agency that made the video, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Leica or Huawei.

The word “Leica” in English and Chinese is now censored from Weibo, a social media platform. Posts with the word can no longer be published, and are instead met with a prompt saying the content “violates the relevant laws or Weibo’s community guidelines.”

Comments also flooded Leica’s official account on the platform, blasting the company for a “dumb” move and claiming the backlash would also hurt Huawei, a Chinese tech firm with whom Leica collaborates on developing smartphone camera lenses.

Mentions of the Tiananmen Square protests are often censored in China, where the government tightly controls news and information. In previous years, censors have even blocked digital payments in amounts that use the numbers “64” and “89” – such as 6.40 yuan (£0.70) – as they reference the date of the crackdown, June 4, 1989.

Using its “Great Firewall,” Beijing routinely blocks Internet access to Google, Twitter and foreign news websites. Some users use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to get around the censors, but the government has been snuffing those out lately as well.