“Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square

cameo_tiananmenCan a single human being make a difference? Can he or she stop the forces of evil dead in their tracks? In June of 1989, during student protests in Beijing, a courageous young man captured the imagination of the whole world when he single-handedly stopped the advance of a tank column by standing in its way.

The following by Pico Iyer writing in Time Magazine, April 13, 1998 — see link below

“A small, unexceptional figure in slacks and white shirt, carrying what looks to be his shopping, posts himself before an approaching tank, with a line of 17 more tanks behind it. The tank swerves right; he, to block it, moves left. The tank swerves left; he moves right. Then this anonymous bystander clambers up onto the vehicle of war and says something to its driver, which comes down to us as: ‘Why are you here? My city is in chaos because of you.’

One lone Everyman standing up to machinery, to force, to all the massed weight of the People’s Republic — the largest nation in the world, comprising more than 1 billion people — while its all powerful leaders remain, as ever, in hiding somewhere within the bowels of the Great Hall of the People.

As soon as the man had descended from the tank, anxious onlookers pulled him to safety, and the waters of anonymity closed around him once more. Some people said he was called Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student; others said not even that much could be confirmed. Some said he was a factory worker’s son, others that he looked like a provincial just arrived in the capital by train.”

17 years later, the incident is still a political taboo in mainland China, where any public discussion of it is regarded as inappropriate. Whoever he was, the man who stood before the line of tanks reminded us that the conviction of the young can generate a courage that elders sometimes lack. And, regardless of the odds, one must do what he knows to be right.


A “YouTube” video of the event: https://youtu.be/qq8zFLIftGk.
The complete “Time” article from which the above quote was reprinted: http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/rebel.html.