Kim Jong-un in China
A police officer rides his motorcycle patrolling near Tiananmen Square in Beijing on March 27, 2018. The Chinese government has been extra cautious about any pro-democracy movements since the incidents of June 1989. WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most enduring images from the Tiananmen Square incidents in Beijing in June 1989 where the People Liberation Army (PLA) tanks massacred several thousand pro-democracy students is of a lone man standing in front of an advancing column of battle tanks. The image taken on June 5, a day after the June 3-4 bloodshed, was a long shot of a man in a white shirt and black trousers defiantly facing a column of advancing battle tanks. The tanks were returning from the Tiananmen Square while the unidentified man was apparently returning from grocery shopping holding two bags.

The photograph that Jeff Widener of the Associated Press shot apparently from the balcony of a nearby building became an iconic image underlining people's spirit against oppression all around the world and rekindles memories of the massacre and spirit of resistance. In video footae of the incident that CNN showed the world and uploaded on YouTube in 2013 the man repeatedly gets in front of the lead tank to stop the column. With reports of gunshots heard in the background, he later climbs on the tank and shouts at the soldiers inside, trying to peek inside. The man later climbs down but runs to block the tank when it begins moving. The identity of the man is still not known, nor his fate.

Tank Man of Tiananmen: The iconic image of a lone man stopping a column of battle tanks in Beijing on June 5, 1989.
The photograph of a lone man standing in front of a column of advancing battle tanks is the most enduring image of the Tiananmen incidents in the Chinese capital Beijing in June 1989.Wikipedia

Pro-democracy protesters were in virtual control of Beijing until the previous day when about 300,000 personnel of the PLA were deployed, apart from the civil police. There were clashes between the army and the protesters in different parts of the city. Beijing was under heavy lockdown and media censorship prevented the world outside from knowing the real situation. Graphic images of the events began circulating much later having been smuggled out of Mainland China by pro-democracy sympathizers.

The Chinese government under defacto supreme leader Deng Xiaoping viewed initially viewed the protests as misguided and later branded them as counterrevolutionary and seditious. Though the Chinese Communist Party was initially divided about the approach to the movement, the hardliners prevailed in the end.

The Chinese government has since been cautious in dealing with student and youth organisations as seen in Hong Kong where pro-democracy activists were successfully sidelined. The government clamps down on any attempt to commemorate the incident in the Mainland or in Hong Kong.