China censored a top livestreamer on the eve of June 4. Now his fans are asking about the Tiananmen Square massacre

Chinese influencer Li Jiaqi holds a layered ice cream that resembles the shape of a tank.

A version of this story appeared in CNN's Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.

Hong Kong (CNN)For decades, the Chinese government has sought to erase all memories of its bloody military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, especially around the anniversary on June 4.

But this year, those attempts backfired, drawing attention to and prompting questions about the massacre from previously oblivious young Chinese internet users.
The fiasco started on Friday evening when a show by Li Jiaqi, the country's top e-commerce livestreamer, ended abruptly after he and his co-host presented the audience with a plate of Viennetta ice cream from the British brand Wall's.
    The layered ice cream, garnished with Oreo cookies on its sides and what appeared to be a chocolate ball and a chocolate stick on top, resembled the shape of a tank -- an extremely sensitive icon to be displayed in public just hours before midnight June 4.
      On the eve of June 4, 1989, Chinese leaders sent in tanks and heavily armed troops to clear Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where student protesters had gathered for weeks to demand democracy and greater freedoms.
      A man holds a poster of the famous 'Tank Man' who stood in front of Chinese military tanks at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
      The crackdown, which killed hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters, is shunned in classrooms and strictly censored in the media and online. Censors are particularly vigilant in the lead-up to its anniversary, swiftly scrubbing even the vaguest references -- from candle emojis to coded phrases like "May 35" -- from the internet.
      As a result, many young Chinese -- especially those born after the massacre -- have grown up with little knowledge of the tragedy.
        So it is perhaps no surprise that many of Li's mostly young fans were puzzled by the sudden suspension of his Friday show, during which he sold a wide range of snacks and drinks from cookies to sodas.
        "What on earth happened to Li Jiaqi? All of a sudden his livestream is gone. Can anyone who knows about it tell us?" a user asked on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform.
        It is possible that Li himself, born in 1992, was also unaware of the symbolism. Having made his name as the "Lipstick King" after selling 15,000 lipsticks in just five minutes in 2018, Li had been careful to stay in the good books of authorities. As many of his peers have found out, a careless political mistake risks losing business sponsorships or worse.
        Chinese influencer Li Jiaqi.
        Shortly after his livestream was cut, Li told his 50 million followers on Weibo that his team was fixing a "technical glitch" and asked them to "wait for a moment." Two hours later, he apologized in another post that the live broadcast could no longer resume that evening