Tiananmen Square and Tank Man, 25 Years Later

"a lily"

Liao Yiwu at the New York Review of Books writes on the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square:

On the night of June 4, there were almost a million unarmed “violent criminals“ trying to stop the army. At first, tanks and armored vehicles broke through the barriers. And then they opened fire, and everybody was screaming. Every shot drew blood; people were mowed down like weeds.

[…]Tank Man was not one of the student leaders, he was no intellectual, nobody had ever heard of him. He left behind this short scene, an indelible historical icon, and then some people led him away by the arm. No one knows what became of him. More than 100,000 Chinese people went into exile after June 4. “Operation Yellowbird” in Hong Kong went on for years, helping people escape. But none of their lists included Wang Weilin. Even the people in my book who were given heavy prison sentences — none of them ever heard about Tank Man in their jails and prison camps.

[…]Twenty-five years have gone by, we have all grown old. But Tank Man in these pictures is still so young. From far away, his white shirt looks like a lily in summer, pure and unblemished. Tanks stopping in front of a lily. A historical moment, a poetic moment. And on the other side of that moment, maybe three thousand lives were taken away, to be forgotten.

Here’s the rest of his essay, a liveblog at the New York Times of the events in China today, NPR on Chinese media suppression of the anniversary, and photos from the original protest at Newsweek and the New Yorker.