A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Protests
Dionne A. Wood | Parma Heights, OH USA | 07/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Documentary about the lone man who stood before the tanks entering Tiananmen Square during the June 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. He is then pulled back into the crowd, either by friends, fellow demonstrators or government forces - no one knows for sure. And no one knows who he was, to this day.
The only reason the photo exists is because of western journalists taking clandestine photos and reporting to the outside world, at the request of the protesters, who were convinced (and probably rightfully so) that the government would cover up everything. Indeed, the infamous photo of the tank man was hurriedly hidden in the toilet tank of a Beijing hotel room by the photographer, who knew the authorities would go door to door looking for film of the horrific massacre happening in the square below the surrounding buildings. The photographer was able to sneak back to the hotel room and find the film canister still in the toilet tank.
1989 was a big year for communists - a big year of endings that is. Five weeks of protests throughout China culminated in Tiananmen Square (June 3 - 5, 1989), and the government wasn't sure if it should negotiate with the student protestors, or take a hardline approach. Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world, designed to show the dominance of the state over the teeny individual, who means nothing. And as the world soon saw, Chinese authorities turned the People's Army on its own citizens, treating them like nothing.
Martial law was declared by authorities, and the army was ordered to retake the square. Live, battlefield ammunition was issued to the troops (some 300,000 of them), who proceeded to fire on unarmed citizens. No one knows how many were killed, and it's doubtful the Chinese authorities will ever release a true count. The Chinese Red Cross at one point reported 2600 killed and some 7000 injured, but quickly retracted that number under government pressure. The government has claimed only 200 odd people were killed (and has made no official mention of the thousands arrested after the protests and either sent to labor camps or executed).
After the demonstration was crushed, tanks rolled down the Avenue of Eternal Peace in a show of state power. And that's when "tank man" stepped out in front of them. The tanks stopped. For one brief moment, everyone on all sides just stopped.
The photo of the tank man made its way around the world, and inspired hundreds of other pro-democracy rallies. (Remember that later in the year the Berlin Wall fell.)"
Good Overview of 1989 Tiananmen Square Suppression
K. Buck | Bartlesville, Oklahoma United States | 06/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This PBS documentary is a good overview of the events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. It explains the genesis of the June showdown and the mistakes made on both sides. My only quibble with the documentary is the lack of information about the Tank Man. The title of the film suggests that the film's focus will be the Tank Man, but its not. It does what it can to explore the Tank Man and discusses the impact of the Tank Man, but does little to clear up any of the mystery. The film appears to want to find out more about the Tank Man, but when it couldn't it shifted its focus to the events in Tiananmen Square. To be fair, I'm sure the journalists tried but were unable to get any new information because of the Chinese repression of news and the media in general. China has repressed information for so long, that I don't think we'll ever know anything definitive about who Tank Man was and what happened to him. And maybe in the long run, it's not necessary. The image of the Tank Man says more than any film or book and that image will last longer than any repressive regime ever could. Our children must be taught the lessons of Tiananmen Square so that image will continue to resonate and have meaning."
This is why Frontline is so great!
InsultinSultan | Baltimore, MD United States | 10/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many of us saw this as breaking news. Thanks to this great documentary, we can see it again. This time with interviews from people who were there and with years of reflection to draw on. Time hasn't diminished the power of that moment. Seeing Tank Man will still bring tears to your eyes. China has come a long way in regards to openness and this moment was one of the keys. If you have any interest in people's desire for freedom, then this film is a must."