What Happened to the June 4, 1989 ‘Tank Man’?

The footage shows that Wang blocked more than a dozen tanks. (Image: Michael Mandiberg flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)
The footage shows that Wang blocked more than a dozen tanks. (Image: Michael Mandiberg flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wang Weilin, which may be an alias, is more commonly known as the “Tank Man.” He was the man during the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre who bravely stood before a column of tanks in the famous picture taken on the morning of June 5, the day after the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Some people also refer to him as a hero. He has never been positively identified, and no-one knows for sure what happened to him after this incident.

During the tank incident, a foreign correspondent was filming the proceedings from his Beijing Hotel balcony. The foreign correspondent documented Wang standing on the street blocking a group of tanks that were heading for Tiananmen Square.

(Image: Pixabay / CC0)

Tiananmen Square, Beijing. (Image: Pixabay / CC0)

The footage shows that Wang blocked more than a dozen tanks. The tanks moved back and forth, trying to go around him. Wang climbed up on top of the first tank to persuade the military soldiers inside to stop. One man riding bike came near him and talked briefly to Wang, then another two men appeared and led Wang off by the arms, quickly leaving the scene.

After the incident, Wang disappeared and his whereabouts remain a mystery. There is some speculation that he escaped from China to Taiwan, while others believe he is still alive in China. These photos and video recordings have spread around the world for 28 years.

On the 20th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, a survey was conducted of China’s young people by a foreign media. The results indicated that most young Chinese had never heard of Wang Weilin, or the Tank Man, before and they didn’t know about the June 4 incident, as this has always been hushed by the communist authorities.

Watch this BBC video of the AP journalist, Jeff Widener, who captured the incident:

However, in the international community, everyone knows about the incident. His name first appeared in the U.K. press, and his bravery is renowned. When Europeans and people from the United States discuss the June 4, 1989 incident, most mention the Tank Man, and consider him to be one of the greatest heroes of our times.

In April 1998, Time magazine included Wang in its feature titled Time 100: The Most important People of the Century, referring to the Tank Man as the bravest hero of our time. One evaluation said that his actions reshaped the symbol of courage in the world.

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