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The Tankman

On June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese Army crushed the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, a lone, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace.

The Tank Man became internationally famous when he stood in front of a column of Chinese tanks, preventing their advance during the Tiananmen Square protests in China on June 5, 1989.

The incident took place just a minute away from Tiananmen on Chang'an Avenue, which leads into the Forbidden City, Beijing, on June 5, 1989, the day after the Chinese government began cracking down violently on the protests. The man stood alone in the middle of the road as the tanks approached. He held two bags, one in each hand. As the tanks came to a stop, he appeared to be trying to wave them away.

In response, the front tank attempted to drive around the man, but the man repeatedly stepped into the path of the tank in a show of nonviolent action. After blocking the tanks, the man climbed up onto the top of the lead tank and had a conversation with the driver. Reports of what he said to the driver vary, including Why are you here? My city is in chaos because of you; Go back, turn around, and stop killing my people; and Go away. Video footage shows that anxious onlookers then pulled the man away and absorbed him into the crowd and the tanks continued on their way.

Little is publicly known of the man's identity. Numerous rumors have sprung up as to the man's identity and current whereabouts, but none are backed by hard evidence. There are several conflicting stories about what happened to him after the demonstration. In a speech to the President's Club in 1999, Bruce Herschensohn - former deputy special assistant to President of the United States Richard Nixon - reported that he was executed 14 days later; other sources say he was killed by firing squad a few months after the Tiananmen Square protests. In Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, Jan Wong writes that the man is still alive and is hiding in mainland China.

An eyewitness account of the event published in October 2005 by Charlie Cole, a contract photographer for Newsweek magazine at the time, states that the man was arrested on the spot by the Public Security Bureau. The People's Republic of China government made few statements about the incident or the person involved. In a 1990 interview with Barbara Walters, then-CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin was asked what became of the man. Jiang replied "I think never killed [sic]." A June 2006 article in the Hong Kong Apple Daily stated that the man is now residing in Taiwan.