9. Tank Man
The iconic image of the unidentified man known only as “Tank Man” became a powerful symbol of the day China’s People’s Liberation Army violently gunned down hundreds of civilians who were protesting government corruption in Tienanmen Square. This inspiring photograph of the “unknown rebel” does not come with an ending, happy or otherwise.
No one knows the fate of this brave, mysterious man, but theories abound. They include that he was a student who was ultimately put to death for his actions, that he was pulled to safety by the crowd, that he escaped mainland China to Taiwan, that he was arrested, and that he is alive and well to this day, 27 years later.
That would be impressive, given China’s notoriety for carrying out swift and severe punishments, especially for crimes committed against the government. It is doubtful that we will ever know who he is or what happened to him, but everyone seems to agree on one thing, that he was not run over by the tanks.
This photo will always evoke in people a fear of dictatorship, I think, and an admiration for those who fight it at the utmost risk. China is without a doubt better than they used to be when it comes to censorship and human rights issues, however they have a long way to go. My firsthand experience while living in small-town China was that, exactly: they have a long way to go with a lot of things, a fact they try to hide by doing things like censoring the number of drivers on the road during the 2008 Olympics so Westerners don’t know how over-populated it really is there.