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Where Is Time’s ‘Man of the Century,’ Tank Man, Now?

Tank Man stopping a column of tanks headed toward Tiananmen Square on July 5, 1989, a day after the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Tank Man stopping a column of tanks headed toward Tiananmen Square on July 5, 1989, a day after the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre. (Screenshot/YouTube)

It’s an image that is emblazoned on the consciousness of all those who support justice and democracy—the heroic young man putting his life on the line to block the tanks on their way to Tiananmen Square on July 5, 1989, a day after the massacre of June 4, 1989. He miraculously survived that encounter, and is still alive today.

The Chinese Communist Party called him a fearless criminal; to the rest of the world, he is a fearless hero possessing the courage to challenge oppression in the face of overwhelming odds. In 1998, he was listed as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century,” referring to the Tank Man as the bravest hero of our time.

Tank Man stopping a column of tanks headed for Tiananmen Square on July 5, 1989, then being whisked away to safety:

Wang Weilin (a pseudonym) was near Tiananmen Square on that fateful day. He ran toward the moving tanks and waved his hands, motioning for the tanks to go back. They tried to go around him, but he continued to place himself in their path, refusing to let them pass. He even climbed up onto the lead tank at one point, displaying his dogged determination. Several men quickly escorted him away. He managed to leave the city the following day with the help of many Beijing residents.

 

How that famous photo of Tank Man came about:

He hid in China for the next three years, travelling from Guangdong to Hong Kong, and then eventually to Taiwan, with support and assistance from countless Chinese residents who believe in and hope for the freedom that comes with democracy.

Professor Wang Xizhi, one of Wang Weilin’s oldest friends, has his consent to disclose his current situation. He is suffering from poor health, but he wants to let the public know of his survival, and for that to inspire people everywhere to continue the fight for a common ideal.

Now living in southern Taiwan, Wang leads an archeological team, and has made his living as an appraiser of ceramics and antiques. He married a local girl and had two sons. Tragically, one of the boys passed away before his 2nd birthday.

Wang is a very warm and kindhearted man, who has never given up his ideals. He maintains a keen interest in Chinese affairs, and still nurtures the hope that one day, China will enjoy all of the freedoms that democracy brings with it.

Translated research by Yi Ming and Kathy

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