Tiananmen square massacre photos wiki, tank man pictures

The legend of the 'Tank Man' photograph

Jeff Widener was initially irritated by the man entering his shot.

Widener, an Associated Press photographer, was focusing his camera on a line of tanks in Beijing's Tiananmen Square when this man in a white shirt and dark trousers appeared out of nowhere, carrying what appeared to be shopping bags.

Widener feared the man would alter the composition of his frame.

He had no idea he was about to capture one of the most iconic images in history.

Prior to the appearance of "Tank Man," pro-democracy demonstrators had occupied Tiananmen Square for weeks. On June 3, 1989, a young woman is caught in the crossfire between civilians and Chinese soldiers attempting to remove her from an assembly near the Great Hall of the People.
Prior to the appearance of "Tank Man," pro-democracy demonstrators had occupied Tiananmen Square for weeks. On June 3, 1989, a young woman is caught in the crossfire between civilians and Chinese soldiers attempting to remove her from an assembly near the Great Hall of the People.
On the day China began cracking down on demonstrations, protesters stand atop an armored vehicle.
On the day China began cracking down on demonstrations, protesters stand atop an armored vehicle.

Widener stood on the hotel balcony watching as the man confronted the lead tank, directly in front of it. The tank came to a halt and attempted to maneuver around the man. The man moved in lockstep with the tank, once again obstructing its path.

During the standoff, the man climbed onto the lead tank and appeared to communicate with whoever was inside.

“I was about a half mile from the row of tanks, and as a result, I couldn't hear very well,” Widener explained.

Onlookers eventually drew the man away. We have no idea who he is or what happened to him to this day. However, he continues to be a potent symbol of defiance.

On the day after the crackdown began, Chinese troops and tanks assemble in Beijing.
On the day after the crackdown began, Chinese troops and tanks assemble in Beijing.
A student protester places barricades in the path of an armored vehicle that is already on fire. Demonstrators killed a soldier who escaped the vehicle.
A student protester places barricades in the path of an armored vehicle that is already on fire. Demonstrators killed a soldier who escaped the vehicle.

By this point, the Chinese government was desperate to maintain control over the message being broadcast to the rest of the world. Several days prior to the crackdown, China attempted to prevent all American news organizations, including CNN, from broadcasting live from Beijing.

“There was always a significant risk of arrest and film confiscation,” Widener explained.

Martsen, the student who assisted Widener in gaining access to the Beijing Hotel, concealed the "Tank Man" film in his underwear and smuggled it out. The images were quickly transmitted to the rest of the world via telephone lines.

On May 30, 1989, a statue dubbed The Goddess of Democracy was unveiled in front of a portrait of communist leader Mao Zedong. The statue was designed in the style of the Statue of Liberty.
On May 30, 1989, a statue dubbed The Goddess of Democracy was unveiled in front of a portrait of communist leader Mao Zedong. The statue was designed in the style of the Statue of Liberty.
During the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Chinese military items such as rifles, helmets, and a hat are displayed.
During the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Chinese military items such as rifles, helmets, and a hat are displayed.

Numerous news organizations took photographs of "Tank Man," but Widener's was the most widely used. It was featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize that year.

“While I was aware that the photograph had garnered widespread praise, it wasn't until years later that I saw an AOL post naming my image one of the top ten most memorable photographs of all time. That was the first time I realized I'd accomplished something truly remarkable," Widener explained.

Protests in Beijing began on April 18, 1989, following the death of former communist leader Hu Yaobang. Hu had worked to shift China's political system toward greater openness, and he had become a symbol of democratic reform. Students on the verge of tears marched to Tiananmen Square to demand a more democratic government.

Among pro-democracy protesters, a soldier sings. Police and military officers occasionally interacted with protesters in an attempt to maintain a peaceful demonstration.
Among pro-democracy protesters, a soldier sings. Police and military officers occasionally interacted with protesters in an attempt to maintain a peaceful demonstration.
On June 6, 1989, a Chinese tank crashes through a barricade of burned buses in front of the Beijing Hotel.
On June 6, 1989, a Chinese tank crashes through a barricade of burned buses in front of the Beijing Hotel.

Thousands of people joined the students in protesting China's communist rulers over the next few weeks.

On May 19, an estimated 1.2 million people attended a rally. A 33-foot-tall statue of the Goddess of Democracy was erected in the square in four days.

Widener recalled, "There was a carnival atmosphere and a palpable lightness in the air." “I believe that the majority of the media were swept up in the whole affair, and I found it remarkable that a statue of democracy stood across Chang'an Boulevard from the giant Mao portrait symbolizing communism.”

Chinese soldiers are driven down Beijing's Chang'an Boulevard by a truck a day after the crackdown began.
Chinese soldiers are driven down Beijing's Chang'an Boulevard by a truck a day after the crackdown began.
On May 28, 1989, litter surrounds students protesting in Tiananmen Square.
On May 28, 1989, litter surrounds students protesting in Tiananmen Square.

On June 4, around 1 a.m., Chinese troops opened fire on demonstrators. There has never been a published official death toll. Numerous estimates range between several hundred and thousands.

Additionally, it is estimated that up to 10,000 people were arrested during and following the protests. Several dozen people were put to death.

Widener stayed in Beijing for a week following the crackdown's start and then fled.

“When I left for the airport, I was sick with the flu, suffering from a head injury, and terrified to death,” he explained.

His photographs — and anything else relating to the massacre — remain banned in China to this day.

Students from Beijing University complete the Goddess of Democracy statue.
Students from Beijing University complete the Goddess of Democracy statue.
In a bus window, an anti-government protester holds a rifle.
In a bus window, an anti-government protester holds a rifle.
On May 29, 1989, student demonstrators decorate tents in a Tiananmen Square camp.
On May 29, 1989, student demonstrators decorate tents in a Tiananmen Square camp.
Street sweepers clean the area around a burned-out city bus.