Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tiananmen Square

2007 Tiananmen Square Massacre Memorial
2007 Tiananmen Square Massacre Memorial (Photo credit: javacolleen)

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tank Man/Tiananmen Square incident, and if you haven’t, perhaps this picture will look familiar.

Known as the June 4th massacre, in 1989 Beijing, Chinese students protested in Tiananmen Square.  At the time, the Communist leaders of China were beginning to implement some capitalist reforms. Communist ideals or a command market refers to the government owning and controlling prices for businesses, while capitalist ideals or a free market refers to private ownership and private decision for pricing. Things were dismal for university students of the time, with few job opportunities, and a professor named Fang Lizhi further motivated the students to protest with his speeches on human rights, freedom, and separation of powers. Hu Yaobang, General Secretary, took a soft approach to dealing with protestors in December 1986, and was therefore greatly liked by reformers. At his death in April 1989, mourners gathered in large numbers to erect shrines and give speeches about Hu, and one such gathering place was Tiananmen Square. The crowd, viewed as obstructive, were dispersed by police. 

Upwards of four thousand students marched into the Square starting on April 17th, and protests began in earnest. But our focus lay on June 5th, in the aftermath of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forcibly clearing out protestors and ending several lives. The PLA, still clearing people out on June 5th, encountered a man who is known only as Tank Man today. Carrying two grocery bags, the man stood by himself in front of a row of advancing tanks in order to get them to stop. 

He proceeded to step in front of the tanks as they attempted to go around him and effectively brought the column to a stop. He then climbed on top of the tanks, and according to videos, seemed to have a small conversation with a crewman of the first tank, before stepping off and resuming the standoff. Shortly after, two figures in blue ran out from the crowd forming and pulled Tank Man out of the way, allowing the tanks to resume on their path.

The public is still not completely aware of Tank Man’s identity or even the identity of those who pulled him away. But his ‘actions’ against the tanks have landed him as a figure of courage and admiration. 

Sources: Wikipedia, Investor Words, PBS
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