Frontline gives Tiananmen Square Tank Man his own Web site

Today I noticed a strange uptick in site traffic due to this google search. I was wondering why so many people were searching for information on the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man.” Usually that only happens around June 4th. Then I found out that PBS has dedicated an entire Web site to the man who captured the heart and imagination of the world in one of modern history’s most breathtaking moments. Suddenly, lots of people were searching for more information on the mysterious hero.

I strongly recommend you go there now. This site is long overdue.

Update: I’ve just spent more time scrolling through the site, and all I can say is that it is extraordinary. What a great service. Lots of eyewitness accounts from the likes of John Pomfret, Jan Wong, Orville Schell and others. The entire upcoming Frontline program on theTank Man will be availabe for viewing online at the site as of Friday at 5PM (EST, I presume). To those of you in China, has this site been locked behind the Great Firewall yet?

Update II: Now I see, via CDT, that the NY Times has reviewed the Frontline documentary.

Tonight’s rambling episode of “Frontline” asserts that from China’s teeming citizenry, one man’s brief, thwarted act of defiance actually changed the world.

“The Tank Man,” as he is called in lieu of a confirmed identity, was the Beijing obstructionist who stood in the way of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square nearly 17 years ago. This 90-minute episode, produced by the provocative filmmaker Antony Thomas, argues that although the Tank Man’s gesture did not lead to his government’s collapse after soldiers fired on peaceful protesters, it inspired reformers everywhere to challenge totalitarian oppressors.

Mr. Thomas’s ambitious, sprawling take knows few bounds as it maps upheaval from Mongolia to Hong Kong and charts a rural-to-urban migration of hundreds of millions of job-seekers. Along the way, the program hustles to explain dismal labor conditions, Internet privacy and rivalries among journalists. What is billed as a story of one man becomes a catchall format for every useful bit of information about China’s commitment to economic modernization and resistance to political reform.

All this rests on the shoulders of an anonymous figure, and while there are theories about who he may have been, the report named for him gives up the ghost too quickly. “The Tank Man” presents analyses about who would want him to remain unknown and counterarguments about how his exposure would have ensured his survival. By the end, viewers will remain confused about whether his act was premeditated or spontaneous, whether the plainclothes people who carried him away were protectors or persecutors, and, of course, whether the Tank Man is dead or alive.

Still, the episode presents vast stores of information about China’s new wealth — and some accusations against rich Westerners who are, in turn, getting richer. One of the most compelling diversions in this overlong documentary explains the role Yahoo played in helping Chinese officials imprison a dissident journalist. In the narrator’s estimation, compliance with Chinese laws can seem like complicity with rights-abusing regimes.

I can’t wait to see it, even if it sounds less than perfect. Yahoo has sure taken lots of heat for the Shi Tao catastrophe, which seems to dwarf alleged sins of Google and Microsoft.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

I dunno, the NYT Discovery Channel just started their China Rises series. Since they’re muscling in on Frontline’s market, it makes sense they’d smack the competition around a little.

April 12, 2006 @ 4:27 am | Comment

From here I can get the main page (including the picture) but I can’t access any of the other pages (interviews, timeline, internet censorship, etc). I got very excited for a second when I thought I might be being allowed to view the teacher’s guide (now that would be one sure-fire way to ensure that my contract wasn’t renewed), but it was a false alarm.

April 12, 2006 @ 4:27 am | Comment

It must be that time of the month – CNN International has been doing a big China Rising series all week.

April 12, 2006 @ 4:44 am | Comment

I watched it last night here in San Francisco and thought it was excellent. The Tank Man was mostly used as a theme that came back several times during the 90 minute documentary, always asking the question about his disappearance. First, about 10 minutes on Tank Man, then 30 minutes of recap of Tiananmen with interviews with both Western and Chinese journalists, plus some of the participants.

At 60 minutes, I thought the whole thing was over, but it just shifted gears, first to the wonders of modern China with all those skylines of Shanghai and Beijing. Once again, I thought the documentary was over, but it shifted gears to criticism, with looks at huge factories and the living conditions of those young girls crammed into dorms, then Google internet censorship with recent examples of Google search results of West via Chinese, then a blazing indictment of Google, Yahoo, Cisco, Microsoft, with film of the Senate hearings.

Really excellent documentary.

April 12, 2006 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

PBS has some good programming from time to time. They had another frontline special awhile back that was pretty good too:

April 12, 2006 @ 2:15 pm | Comment

PBS has some good programming from time to time. There was another good Frontline program awhile back too:

April 12, 2006 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

Well, this Chinese tank man and the British bulldozer activist. Why can’t people remember to stand clear of approaching vehicles?

April 12, 2006 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

You can watch the whole thing on
starting Friday.

Even though watching via the web might mean the bodies on the street of the parents who went back the next day looking for their kids probably won’t be that visible.

April 12, 2006 @ 6:24 pm | Comment

Yesterday I was able to access the PBS “Tankman” site, but TODAY, ALL of PBS is blocked.

All of it.

Chinese Propaganda Department: go fuck yourselves, you lying sacks of shit, filthy cowardly pigs. Go fuck yourselves with a pineapple while you sing praises of the Glorious Battle of June Ten-Minus-Six 1990-minus-one.

April 13, 2006 @ 6:09 pm | Comment

you did a very very very fantastic job. thank you for the web site you provided.
3 minutes ago(only 3 minutes ago. this time the CCP responded in a very quick way. they have blocked it as fast as flashing lighting) i can view the main page only. although no more pages can be accessed, i am still very great to see the tankman again.
Seeing that indistinct picture of tankman, i can touch his courage, his fearless determination against the tyranny and pursuit of full democracy and freedom. and, more, a little of nostagia in memorizing my childhood(funny? but it’s true).
I was still a very young child at that time when the tiananmen massacre was happening. in that period of time, i had been watching news through my black-white TV. I care for the events happening in Tiananmen square because almost most of my surrounding people care for it. the hunger strike, the emotional public address, the protest, the chaos.. all of them were making me interesting, and all caught my attention. I felt that was the real people power, even though i didn’t understand what means people power. i felt that was the turning point of our mothercountry, although i was so young to understand what was the turning point.
very sooner the crush came, the fire, the tank, the blood,the corpse, the cry,made me uncomfortable. i felt i was betrayed by someone, but could not figure out who is them. I felt misleading, but didn’t know why and how. the propaganda later had been reinforcing the patriotic education by declaring that the tiananmen sqare movement was misled and controlled by a small group of people having the hidden purpose, i believed in their lies. under such misleading, i dislike WanDan,Cai Lin, and many other movement leaders. but somehow i could not forget the tankman because of his courage.
I know i could not express my opinions on this tankman precisely, but in my eyes, he becomes a symbol of that history.

April 13, 2006 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

I was able to watch the whole program here in China Saturday evening. No problem. That’s strange…

April 15, 2006 @ 4:54 am | Comment

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