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30 Years Later, Fate of 'Tank Man' Is Unknown

As is the identity of one of the world's most famous protesters
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2019 8:43 AM CDT
In this June 5, 1989, file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square. The iconic image was taken by Jeff Widener.   (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File)

(Newser) – It is not just one of the most enduring images from the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, but one of the most enduring images from the 20th century, period, observes the New York Times. The image, of course, is that of "Tank Man," the protester who stood alone in front of a row of moving tanks in Beijing and would not let them pass. Thirty years later, his identity and his fate remain a mystery:

  • The shot: The iconic photo (at least the most widely circulated version) was taken from a sixth-floor hotel balcony by AP photographer Jeff Widener, who was initially miffed that the man showed up, reports CNN. Widener thought the man was going to mess up his shot of the tanks—until the remarkable standoff ensued. American exchange student Kirk Martsen smuggled Widener's film out of the hotel in his underwear, and it was soon transmitted around the world.
  • Video: See the standoff in this video. Tank Man appears to be carrying shopping bags when he brings the tanks to a halt. At one point, he climbs aboard the lead tank. Eventually, though not seen in the video, onlookers drag him away. See an image of that via Business Insider.

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