By: Dr. Yang Jianli
The Tank Man photo was taken during the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. It is one of the most important images of the 20th century.
Who was this Tank Man? For nearly 30 years, people have wondered what became of him, but his identity and his fate are still a mystery.
This mystery lingers primarily because the Chinese government has made every effort to suppress the truth about what happened at Tiananmen. To this day, people who dare to remember face brutal persecution.
In recent years, I have been simmered in pondering the question: Why did the front tank driver facing the Tank Man, not open fire or run over? Just after the massacre, the Chinese government tried to use this photo as evidence that the military’s response to the student demonstrators had been restrained.
But the world is not fooled because many survivors, including myself, can testify the otherwise. I was one of the protesters in the Tiananmen Square. I witnessed many people killed, including 11 students who were chased and run over by tanks on the morning of June 4th.
The tank driver undoubtedly disobeyed orders to kill. So we should see two heroes in the Tank Man picture: one, standing in front of the juggernaut, represents ordinary citizens’ bravery in confronting the State violence, and the other, I call him another tank man, driving the killing machine but refusing to kill, represents those who are inside the tyrannical state yet can rise to moral challenges facing them from one situation to another.
We don’t know the fate of these two Tank Men, but I don’t think we should ever stop looking for any of them. Because they together symbolize the timeless truth that, for anyone, no matter what you are, moral courage can triumph over cowardly cruelty. Besides, there are always Tank Men all around us. And if we know this, perhaps we might find it easier, when the times call for it, to aspire to what is best in us; to look to our own reserves of courage and compassion, and try to be Tank Men ourselves.
Please join me in calling on the Chinese president to tell the world what happened to the Tank Men.
(1). Go to http://tinyurl.com/finding2tankmen
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(3). If a street address is asked, and privacy is a concern, please enter N/A.
(4). Click sign Note: When more than one people want to use one same device to sign, the previous signer must click the small arrow beside the signer’s name and then click Log Out before the following one to enter through the link