So I’ve had the chance to watch the Frontline presentation. It was fascinating.
Not surprisingly, there was little substantive information regarding Tank Man. No one knows anything about him. Or rather, nobody who knows anything about him is talking. And we can hardly blame them. Who would want to admit to being associated with a man who embarrassed the Chinese regime? And if Tank Man is still free, who would want to risk fingering him to the authorities?
The general consensus is that Tank Man was no part of the Beijing protest. Most seem to agree that he was likely a bystander caught up in the outrage and who decided to take a stand. He was simply expressing his righteous indignation at the oppression he was seeing.
We can find hope in the fact that most seem to believe that he was not carried off by the police. A couple of people who were interviewed noted wryly that the Chinese police are not so gentle as were those who escorted Tank Man out of the street. They surmise that these were other bystanders or friends who knew Tank Man was moments away from arrest or death, and wished to rescue this brave soul from himself. We cannot know if he was later identified (the video never gives us any real identifying features, but the tank crew certainly got a good look at him) and taken. I pray not.
The episode spent a lot of time examining the government’s attempts to erase Tank Man. The government rigidly controls any public mention of the Tiananmen Square episode. It also explored the dual nature of China: Urban China, which is becoming increasingly involved in commercialization and is reaping the material benefits; and Rural China, which is in many ways paying the costs of that commercialization, receiving less and less government support and plagued with rampant poverty.
I thought that having posted the blog entry and watching the show had somewhat purged me of my emotional connection with the Tank Man. Nope. Just a few minutes ago, I checked a website with information regarding Tiananmen Square. The webpage, of course, prominently displayed the famous image of the Tank Man. I still felt the chills and my throat constrict.
I hope I never loose that sense of awe for the Tank Man and all he represents.