Se cumple 30 años de la foto de aquel hombre que se enfrentó a una hilera de tanques en China, pero nunca se supo su identidad.
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World

That man and the war tank

Manuel Noriega / One of the most powerful images in history turns 30 years. On June 5, 1989, that man, standing in front of a long line of tanks during the protests of Tiananmen Square in the capital of the People’s Republic of China, became a symbol of resistance and a source of inspiration. The previous day, the military had ended by force with the protests that took place from April 15.

From the balconies of the Beijing Hotel in the Chinese capital, Chang’An Avenue was perfectly visible. 30 years ago, on June 5, 1989, in Tiananmen Square there were several journalists who were preparing to photograph and film the relentless advance of a column of at least ten war tanks.

Suddenly, in the lower part of the viewfinders of the cameras, something moved: a man with a light shirt and dark pants.

There he is. A man with a bag in one hand and a jacket in the other, motionless, in front of the first tank in the row.

The vehicle stops moving and the man waves the bag in a gesture of disapproval, as if ordering him to leave. The camera trembles and the armored tries to divert its march to avoid the man, who moves, at the same time, to prevent the passage.

That man, a little hairy, climbs into the tank and looks for a way to talk to the soldier inside. When the soldier opens the hatch and leaves, the individual gets off the armored and other people come and take him.

 

The story behind the photo of the man alone

That individual protest went around the world. It became the iconic image of resistance to Chinese repression during the protests of Tiananmen Square. But the protagonist is lost in history.

Photographers Jeff Widener, Charlie Cole and Stuart Franklin immortalized that scene. “For a moment I thought he was going to ruin the photo, but I waited thinking that at any moment they were going to shoot him,” Widener thought when he saw the man in the tank, according to what he recognized in an interview with Efe.

He also assured in the interview, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, that he has a love-hate relationship with the snapshot. “It has given me a lot, but it has also overshadowed other aspects of my professional career,” he said.

To take it and, above all, to make sure that it reached the publishers, he counted on the help of an American student.

He gave him access to his room on the sixth floor and then managed to get the reel hidden in his underwear and deliver it to the office of his news agency. Widener’s photo was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1990.

Cole did get credit for capturing the moment. His photo earned him a World Press Award that same year. Cole took the photo from the balcony of his room on the eighth floor. The scene was about 200 meters away. At his side was the third photojournalist, according to Cole commented to Efe.

“Out of nowhere appeared that young man, with a jacket in one hand and a bag in the other. And he stood in front of the tanks. I could not believe it, but I kept shooting convinced that they were going to kill him”, photographer said.

About the protagonist, his identity was never known. Some named him and claimed he was a Wang Weilin, but the information was never confirmed. Nothing is known about his destiny.

Some theories suggest that he was captured by the regime there; others say that after being arrested he was executed and others, that he lives in anonymity in the interior zone of the country.

The general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party at that time said years later that the tank man was never arrested and that he was unaware of his whereabouts.

 

Almost two months of protests and repression

On April 15, 1989, a student revolt began in the People’s Republic of China. The demonstrators, mostly young students, took to the streets against the Communist Party Government.

The protests were the channeling of the frustration that the inhabitants felt before the repression, control and corruption of the Chinese Government, worsened by the economic situation of the country.

The beginning of the movement was the death of reformist Hu Yaobang. The students gathered to mourn and honor Yaobang. Soon, people gathered in dozens of cities across the country asking for change.

Just over a month after the start of the movement, the Chinese government decided not to yield to any of the demands of the street and to placate the demonstrations by force.

On May 20, the leadership of the political party in power declared a state of emergency throughout the country. By then, Tiananmen Square had already become the epicenter and symbol of the protests.

On June 3, the military received the order to act and later they began to march through the streets of the capital. The next day, soldiers shot unarmed demonstrators in the streets.

There was never an official investigation of the case and the number of victims ranges from a few hundred to ten thousand.

In these 30 years, the People’s Republic of China has not faced those events and has not assumed the episode of Beijing Square. Commemorations are not an option and any mention of what happened there is censored on the Internet.

 

(June 5, 2019, EFE – Reportajes / Practica Español)

Related News (June 4, 2009):


Comprehension

Lee la noticia y responde a las siguientes preguntas (Read the news and answer these questions)

Congratulations - you have completed Lee la noticia y responde a las siguientes preguntas (Read the news and answer these questions). You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
¿Cómo se llama el hombre que se colocó delante de una hilera de tanques en 1989? (What is the name of the man who stood in front of a row of tanks in 1989?)
A
Shao Jiang
B
No se sabe
C
Jeff Widener
Question 2
Las revueltas estudiantiles de 1989 comenzaron el… (The student protests of 1989 began on...)
A
15 de abril de 1989
B
5 de junio de 1989
C
20 de mayo de 1989
Question 3
¿Quién ganó un Premio Pulitzer con la foto de aquel hombre? (Who won a Pulitzer Prize with the photo of that man?)
A
Ninguno de los anteriores
B
Jeff Widener
C
Charlie Cole
Question 4
¿Dónde está grabado el vídeo que aparece al final de la noticia? (Where is the video that appears at the end of the news recorded?)
A
En el Hotel Beijing
B
En la Plaza de Tiananmén
C
En la Universidad de Pekín
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There are 4 questions to complete.

Vocabulary

Lee la noticia y responde a las siguientes preguntas (Read the news and answer these questions)

Congratulations - you have completed Lee la noticia y responde a las siguientes preguntas (Read the news and answer these questions). You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
En el texto, una hilera es una… (In the text, a hilera is a…)
A
Ambas son correctas
B
serie
C
fila
Question 2
Un antónimo de represión sería… (An antonym of represión would be…)
A
Prohibición
B
Coacción
C
Libertad
Question 3
Si alguien está inmóvil, significa que está… (If someone is inmóvil, it means that he/she is…)
A
Inseguro
B
Variable
C
Quieto
Question 4
En el texto, unas revueltas son… (In the text, some revueltas are…)
A
Una aprobación
B
Unas protestas
C
Unas promesas
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