Tank Man

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Tank Man (2013) by Fernando Sánchez Castillo.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The Tank Man, or the Unknown Protester, is the nickname of an anonymous male dissident who engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience by standing in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Communist Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by force.  The man achieved widespread international recognition due to the videotape and photographs taken of the incident despite censorship of the event by the Chinese government.  Although some have identified the man as Wang Weilin (王維林),, the real name has not been confirmed and little is known about him or of his fate after the confrontation that day.  It is not even known whether this brave individual is alive.  In April 1998, Time included the "Unknown Rebel" in a feature titled Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

Misattributed[edit]


  • Why are you here?  My city is in chaos because of you!
  • Go back!  Turn around!  Stop killing my people!
    • These two statements are frequently attributed to Tank Man on the Internet.  While it seems clear from the footage that some communication occurred between Tank Man and the people in the front tank, no confirmation has ever been made as to what was actually spoken.

Quotes about Tank Man[edit]

  • Twenty years ago, on June 5, 1989, following weeks of huge protests in Beijing and a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of hundreds, a lone man stepped in front of a column of tanks rumbling past Tiananmen Square.  The moment instantly became a symbol of the protests as well as a symbol against oppression worldwide — an anonymous act of defiance seared into our collective consciousnesses.
  • On June 5th, 1989 one individual had enough of the oppression he and others had long-endured from one of the biggest and most ruthless gangs ever to exist.  Left with few other options after decades of rights-usurpations, the man stood up to the aggressors and very literally put his life on the line by standing in front of a column of tanks.  Though never identified with absolute certainty, he became known as The Tank Man.
    • Pete Eyre, "The Tank Man," PeteEyre.com (10 November 2010) Eyre, Pete. The Tank Man. PeteEyre.com. Retrieved on 2014-03-01.
  • He risked a good and honorable death to stand up nonviolently for what is right.
    • George Donnelly, "You are Tank Man," in the Arm Your Mind for Liberty blog (20 June 2012) Donnelly, George. You are Tank Man. Arm Your Mind for Liberty. Retrieved on 2014-03-01.
  • The Tank Man represents the independence and the liberties.  Now I call him a hero, but today who are our "heroes"?  I mean, from the media?  They're always people in our military who have killed a lot of other people: the people who are great sharpshooters, the people who drop bombs, the people who run drone missiles.  And they never get criticised in the major media for killing innocents.  But they become "hero."  Everybody that has a uniform now is a "hero."  But what about somebody who wants to tell the truth?  What if you have an Edward Snowden who finally speaks out and talks about the truth?  He becomes a "traitor" in their eyes.  I call Edward Snowden a true hero like the Tank Man.

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