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Taylor Swift's New Clothing Line Is Starting To Be Censored In China

Things were going so well for the pop star in China — and then politics happened.

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In a Facebook post published yesterday by China's state media CCTV News, the numbers "1989" appeared to have suddenly vanished from a picture of Taylor Swift announcing her fashion line's launch in China.

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The edit leaves behind a plain black sleeveless shift, one that fans can't exactly wear to show off their love of Swift.

Chinese fans were excited for the Chinese product launch from Swift (who in China goes by the nickname Mei Mei / Mold Mold). But a political taboo might ruin their dreams to attend her "1989 World Tour" wearing authentic Mei Mei shirts reading "1989."

The worry is real: aside from the CCTV edit, the shirts on the website of Heritage66 Company — Swift's Nashville-based partner that is commissioned to promote her products in China — don't read "1989" anymore either.

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Unfortunately, it's all because the year 1989, Taylor's birth year, is the same year when China's most censored event happened: the Tiananmen Square massacre. That year hundreds of pro-democracy protestors were killed by the Chinese government.

#TaylorSwift, or Tiananmen? 1989 clothing line courts controversy in China http://t.co/D1bV6Et5Qa via @SCMP_News

As you maybe have noticed, Taylor Swift and Tiananmen Square, share the same initials: T & S.

.@taylorswift13 trying to sell her TS 1989 clothing line in China. This is...really not going to work well.

It's unclear who photoshopped "1989" the pictures first, Heritage 66 or CCTV. BuzzFeed News has reached out to the PR company for comment and hasn't received a reply as of press time.

One thing seems to be clear, is that although the year "1989" is censored on the T-shirts, the Tiananmen linkage didn't really occur to Chinese citizens before the discussion went on Twitter and then was heavily picked up by Western media.

Translation plays an important role. Alphabets only have a minor function in Chinese daily life; they're mainly used for typing Chinese characters into a computer and to learn how to pronounce words. The initials to Tian'an'men Square (or Guang'chang in Chinese), are more like T.A.M.G.C. than T.S. for Chinese people.

Also, entertainment and politics are seen as two separate fields: there's no reason for one to be familiar with the initials from another.

Chinese media have been strictly restricted from discussing what happened on and around Tiananmen Square in 1989 since the massacre. For example, Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent Chinese rights lawyer, was arrested by the police simply after talking about the 1989 pro-democracy protests with some intellectual friends in private space.

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8.8 is the day the clothing line will debut, and 6.4 is the date when the Tiananmen protests turned into a violent crackdown. The user @Xiatapu left a note, "I didn't know Taylor Swift does rock as well."

One Weibo user scorned the media for calling attention to the fact: "You people, don't think about ambitious big news all the time. Do you want Mei Mei's 1989 concert to be canceled in Shanghai? I'm feeling very angry."

Another user shares the same worry: "After Maroon 5 got rejected by China, now I'm worried about Taylor Swift."

Those users have good reason for being concerned.

Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet, Tibet!" during a Shanghai concert in 2008, and has never been able to come back China again; earlier this month, Maroon 5's Shanghai concert was canceled for reasons unknown, after a band member posted a birthday wish to Dalai Lama.

Taylor Swift's clothing line was supposed to counter knockoffs in China according to the Wall Street Journal. On Taobao, China's internet e-commerce giant, more than 8,000 products featuring Taylor can be found, with over 300 items of clothing available.

At this point, it doesn't look like Swift is going to announce how the final products will really look like before August 8. At this point, we just have to hope that China's censors manage to take whatever concerns they have and shake them off.

Beimeng Fu contributed to the reporting in this story.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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