4 June 1992

Tank Man – an image from Tiananmen Square, 5 June 1989

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Just after the massacre in Tiananmen Square, a single man stepped in front of a column of tanks. The resulting images were rapidly transmitted around the west. I wrote this piece for the third anniversary. It appeared in the Guardian, 4 June 1991. An expanded version formed the opening chapter of my book Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine (2000).

tiananmen-1989.jpg

Crushed bicycles, bodies heaped up at a hospital, the Goddess of Democracy erected on 30 May 1989 . . . and toppled by a tank a few days later. There were many images from Beijing that week but the strongest of all dates from June 5th, a day or so after the massacre, when the People’s Liberation Army were acting to secure lines of supply into the reoccupied square.

A column of tanks set off down Cangan Boulevard and into the extraordinary encounter that would be captured by nervous western photographers and cameramen from the balconies of the old Beijing Hotel and then seen, almost simultaneously, around the world…
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