Friday, June 6, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Man Against Tank

The scene of one young man against a column of tanks, which had become the symbol of the Tiananmen Massacre, was vividly described in New York Tims on June 6, 1989:
It all started with a man in a white shirt who walked into the street and raised his right hand no higher than a New Yorker hailing a taxi.
Unlike so many of the pictures from China in the last few weeks, images crowded from one edge of the frame to the other, with determined demonstrators and ambivalent soldiers, this one was powerful in its simplicity: A single man stopping a column of tanks rumbling toward Tiananmen Square.
The man stood only half as tall as the lead tank. But his body language made it clear: He wanted the slow-moving column halted, and halt it did, the huge treads on the lead tank grinding to a stop just a few feet from his face.
It was a close call - the tank came perhaps a second or two of killing him - and it seemed to encapsulate many of the confrontations in recent days between the citizens and the army: the touch-and-go maneuvering, with soldiers not sure when to press on and when to retreat; the determination of the demonstrators, brave and unyielding in ways that might have been unthinkable a few weeks ago. In its quiet way, this little confrontation seemed to symbolize the fragility of the Government's position.
For a long time afterwards, rumors had this young man identified as someone by the name of Wang Weilin (王维林). There are, however, not any evidence to back that up. The identity of the man will most likely never be revealed.

In college campuses, students were setting up memorials for their falling classmates. Even in the aftermath of the massacre, there were still demonstrations in the campus area, which had not been immediately bothered by martial law troops.

There were no immediate reports on the fates of student leaders.

Much attention was however focused on the behavior of the army in the city, amid speculations that conflicts were developing between different units with possibilities of a civil war. Most of these analysis were based on information that were since proven to be false.

In the United States, President George H. W. Bush ordered a suspension of military sales to China, but is reluctant to impose any other economic sanctions. Groups with plan to visit China were canceling their trips.

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