Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011

Tiananmen Square, 1989

The photo of the nameless rebel in front of a line of government tanks is as powerful an image of protest as there ever was. It at once captured both the bravery and the horror in the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. Weeks before the crackdown, peaceful crowds had gathered to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, an ousted official who had championed political and economic reform throughout China. As crowds swelled to 100,000, similar gatherings across the country added to their pleas for change. On June 4, 1989, the government gave the green light for troops and tanks to open fire on the square. Though the exact number killed was never revealed, the image of the unknown rebel — unwavering in the face of government machinery — helped reshape the way the world saw the People's Republic of China, and it still speaks to the crowning power of peaceful protest in the face of an oppressive regime.