Saturday, June 4, 2011

This is Courage

Every time I think of and see this image, I ask myself if I’d be brave enough and strong enough to die for something I really believe in; I’m not sure I would be.

On this day (it says June 5th in the video but I think it’s North American time – it was June 4th in China) 22 years ago, a large group of university students and intellectuals held a protest in Tiananmen Square, because they were pissed off about the bullshit the government was pulling, because they wanted democracy, because they wanted a better future for themselves and for future generations.

So the Chinese government sent in armed troops in tanks to get rid of them. Many civilians were killed and imprisoned because they dared to have a mind, to think, to demand better from their government.

Some journalists staying at the Beijing Hotel managed to capture footage and photos of this man, who faced off with four tanks and exercised unviolent protest by blocking their way, even when they tried to drive around him. A name for this civilian was circulated in the press, but nobody knows if that was his true identity. The Chinese government has never been able to present this man to the public, so no one knows what happened to him after he got dragged away from these tanks – some say he was dragged away by comrades, some say he was imprisoned, and others maintain that he was executed by the government, along with many others.

I can’t tell you how much this famous image touches me. I didn’t discover the video until a few years ago, which had an even larger impact on me because I didn’t know that he kept stepping in the way of the tanks as they tried to steer around him and that he eventually climbed onto the tank to reason with the soldiers.

Many young people in China grew up having never seen this image image before because of censorship, but there are still tombstones as well as many disabled survivors around to prove it happened. A man who had both his legs crushed by a tank recently appeared in a memorial event in Vancouver and held a talk about it.

This is courage. This is strength. And this piece of modern history makes me proud to be Chinese.

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