The Tank Man

I watched a seriously interesting documentary on Frontline last night about the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square, that lone and as yet unidentified young man who, after peaceful protests by Chinese citizens demanding freedom of information and democratic reform erupted into what has been termed the Beijing Massacre, stood in front of a line of tanks in a silent demonstration of defiance.

I had seen this photo (below) dozens of times, and I knew the basics of Tiananmen Square, but until I saw this documentary I had no idea of the extent of the brutality exhibited by the Chinese government, and how intertwined it was with the suppression of information that persists there today. They responded to a series of non-violent marches by declaring martial law, then storming the city and firing into crowds that included children, even shooting and killing doctors and ambulance drivers while they attempted to rescue the wounded. Then the government forced the Red Cross to suppress the number of dead, while denying those arrested for ‘political treason’ of anything resembling habeus corpus.

Also addressed is the role of American corporations such as Google, Cisco, Yahoo! and Microsoft, in recent years, in the Chinese government’s heavy censorship of web-based content and how this has lead to the imprisonment and de facto ‘vanishing’ of those who would attmept to circulate ‘forbidden’ information. Part of a congressional hearing (presided over with admirable bad-assedness by a couple Republican dudes) is shown, during which the VP of Yahoo! proves himself to be sort of a dick.

You can view the entire thing here. If you have two hours, it’s definitely worth the time.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Tank Man

  1. thank you for linking to this. It’s amazing. It’s disturbing, but amazing.

  2. thank you for linking to this. It’s amazing. It’s disturbing, but amazing.

  3. one of the things that planted the seeds of my leaving the city for the sticks was that very same year there was a poll of american youth. they were to list their “heroes” in order of admiration and importance. the winner?

    michael jackson.

    the young man who stood unarmed in front of tanks didn’t make the list.

    at that moment i knew i wanted out. i am also beginning to fear that i didn’t run far enough. i TIVO’d this one. it will be watched soon. thanks for the linkage.

  4. Jewel

    Tart, I couldn’t think of a pet peeve for yesterday’s thread, but you’ve just supplied me with one: it’s martial law, not marshal!! (i love your posts, btw…, pet peeves or no! )

  5. Tart

    Dammit! Oh, I suck for that.

  6. zak822

    The tank commanders didn’t run him over, as I expected. When the tank veered, Tank Man stepped over to stay in front of the column.

    They didn’t want to kill him. With all the killing that was going on, they didn’t want to kill him.

    It was maybe the bravest thing I’ve ever seen. All of it.

  7. I just added this to my Netflix.

  8. I could swear one of his friends realized the tanks were moving to run him over and dragged him away.

    One of the things that came out in the days following Tainnenman Square was that the soldiers piled up the bodies and burned them. Not everyone in those piles was dead yet.

    I have always hoped that was just a terrible rumor.

  9. Tart

    Deborah, doesn’t Netflix rock? You can get anything on there.

  10. It was a huge, inspiring, awe-ful act of bravery. Even though it happened in a moment, he’ll stand forever.

    On a sad note, I read somewhere (Ethan Zuckerman’s blog, My Heart’s in Accra? or Rebecca MacKinnon’s, RConversation?) that the young man was hauled away by a group of police / soldiers shortly after that and hasn’t been seen again. I hope I remember that wrong. I wonder how different the world would be if the Chinese had a good government?

  11. And guess what Deacon Dumb has in store for one and all with his lates National Security Executive order?

    And this describes exactly how it will go down only don’t expect the fucking tanks to stop this time.

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