Tank man

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Tank Man and Unknown Rebel are the names for a not yet publicly identified man who achieved international fame by standing in front of a convoy of tanks during the massacre on Tian'anmen Square and blocking their advance. carrying a shopping bag in each hand. This scene of civil disobedience was captured by numerous photographers and television crews. Various recordings of the scene have been used by a number of newspapers and television stations.

In April 1998, took Time Magazine the Tank Man in the list of 100 most influential people of the century.


The incident took place on June 5, 1989 near Tian'anmen Square on Chang'an Avenue, which runs between the square and the Forbidden City . The day before, the demonstrations in Tian'anmen Square were violently suppressed. The man was standing alone on the road when the Type 59 tanks approached. He had a shopping bag in each hand. When the tanks pulled up in front of him, he tried to stop them. The first tank then tried to drive past him. The man stood in his way again. He got on the first tank and started arguing with the driver. After the man got off the tank, the driver started his engine and wanted to start the tank again. The man immediately blocked the journey again. The video shows that the man was pulled away by four people within a few minutes and disappeared into the crowd. It is controversial whether the four people were passers-by who wanted to save him or security officers who took the man into custody. The tanks then continued to advance.

Various recordings

A photo was taken with an 800 millimeter lens by Jeff Widener , who worked for the Associated Press , from the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel, about half a mile from the site of the event.

Stuart Franklin of Magnum Photos took a photo shortly beforehand showing more tanks due to his wider field of view. Charlie Cole of Newsweek won for his recording a World Press Photo Award . The image was included in Time Magazine's list of the 100 Photographs That Changed the World. Another photo was taken by photographer Arthur Tsang who worked for Reuters.

Films have been shot by television crews from the BBC and CNN .

On the 20th anniversary, June 5th, 2009, a previously unknown image was published. It shows the Tank Man waiting for the arriving tanks and the first one is still some distance away. This is the only photo the Associated Press Terril Jones took before taking cover, like other passers-by, from being shot in the direction of the tanks. He only noticed the Tank Man after looking through the negatives, but did not publish the picture until 20 years later out of respect for the iconic photos.

Speculation about the identity

No reliable information is available on the identity of Tank Man . Shortly after the incident, the British tabloid Sunday Express reported that it was the 19-year-old student Wang Weilin ( Chinese  王维林 ). The information is not valid.

There is conflicting information about what happened after the incident. In 1999, Bruce Herschensohn , former advisor to US President Richard Nixon , stated in a speech to the President's Club that Tank Man had been executed two weeks after the incident, other sources say that he was executed by an execution squad a few months later has been. Journalist Charlie Cole, who watched the incident, believed the man was arrested by police and may have been executed because the Chinese government did not show him after the incident. Journalist Jan Wong was also on site as an eyewitness. She is convinced that the four people who pushed Tank Man aside were passers-by. In her book Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now , Wong later wrote that the Tank Man had gone into hiding in China.

The Chinese government gave little information about the incident and who was involved. In 1990, then- General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party , Jiang Zemin , replied that he believed Tank Man had not been executed.

Web links


  • Andrew J. Nathan , Perry Link (Eds.), Zhang Liang (Ed.): The Tiananmen Papers, The Chinese Leadership's Decision to Use Force Against their Own People — In their Own Words. With an afterword by Orville Schell . PublicAffairs, New York 2001, ISBN 1-58648-012-X (An archived version of The Tiananmen Papers is available in Foreign Affairs magazine ( December 19, 2008 memento on the Internet Archive ) ).
  • June Fourth: The True Story, Tian'anmen Papers / Zhongguo Liusi Zhenxiang. 2 vols. Zhang Liang, ISBN 962-8744-36-4 (Chinese edition).
  • Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now. Jan Wong, Doubleday, 1997, ISBN 0-385-48232-9 (In addition to autobiographical material, the book contains an eyewitness account of the massacre on Tian'anmen Square and the basis for an estimate of the number of victims.)
  • Benjamin Drechsel: The Tank Man. How the defeat of the Chinese protest movement of 1989 was visually reinterpreted as a victory. In: Gerhard Paul (Ed.): Pictures that made history. 1900 until today. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-525-30024-4 , pp. 228-235.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Pico Iyer: The Unknown Rebel. In: Time Magazine. April 13, 1998, accessed July 6, 2014 .
  2. Gabriel Dominguez: Widener: 'The Tank Man photo changed my life'. In: dw.de . May 30, 2014, accessed July 6, 2014 .
  3. ^ Leo Benedictus: Photographer Stuart Franklin's best shot. In: The Guardian . May 14, 2009, Retrieved July 6, 2014 (with a photo).
  4. ^ 1989, Charlie Cole, World Press Photo of the Year. Retrieved August 2, 2016 .
  5. a b Picture power: Tiananmen stand-off. In: BBC News. October 7, 2005, accessed July 6, 2014 .
  6. Peter Blunschi: A new view of the "Panzermann". In: 20 minutes online. June 5, 2009, accessed July 6, 2014 .
  7. ^ The Tank Man transcript. In: Frontline. PBS, April 11, 2006, accessed July 6, 2014 .

Coordinates: 39 ° 54 '23.5 "  N , 116 ° 23' 59.8"  E