Tiananmen Square 25-Years Later: What Happened To ‘Tank Man’?

Tiananmen Square 25-year anniversary. Tank Man

As the world remembers Tiananmen Square 25-years after the remarkable events that took place in China, the image of the person that came to be known as “Tank Man” is the one that people still talk about and many wonder what happened to the brave man who stopped the advance of the Chinese tanks if only for a brief moment.

When photo journalist Stuart Franklin decided to stay at his hotel instead of going to eat burgers by the airport, he didn’t know the image he would capture with his camera would be a defining moment in the Tiananmen Square protests and would mark the beginning of brutal crackdown.

For a moment in time that will live down in history, the lone man stood there, anonymously holding what looked to be shopping bags and blocked the leading tank’s path.

What was the tank driver thinking, as he was surely following orders to drive ahead to where the students had been gathering in Tiananmen Square and defying one the of most controlling regimes in the world? We don’t know that and probably never will, but that moment of hesitation, trying to decide what to do, while facing “Tank Man” standing there must have been quite confusing.

This is a wider shot of what exactly “Tank Man” was facing, an unending line of Chinese tanks converging on the Avenue of Eternal Peace in Tiananmen Square.

The tank leader moved to one side, then to the other in order to avoid the “Tank Man,” but each time, he also moved and kept blocking its way. Finally, the tank driver turned his engine off and the two appeared to be having a conversation. Remarkable and extremely dangerous, as the man could have been killed on the spot.

For Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener — whose photo is the best known — he has “always felt ‘Tank Man’ was like the unknown soldier. He will always symbolize freedom and democracy,” according to statements he made to McClatchy News Service this year.

The impact, the image of Tiananmen Square’s “Tank Man” had, was so powerful that Time magazine named the unknown rebel, one of the 20th century’s top revolutionaries, for the effect his brazen action had and the number of people who witnessed it. Not surprisingly, those inside China have never seen it.

As to what happened to the man, not even persistent journalists have been able to identify “Tank Man’ even though he came to symbolize the fight for freedom in Tiananmen Square 25-years-ago. Nobody knows who he was or what became of him after he was pulled away by two men in blue, but his memory is one that will go down in history as one of the most inspiring of all time.

[Image by Jeff Widener via Wikipedia]