Chinese censorship has not stopped people around the world from sharing photos of themselves standing tall and holding shopping bags in remembrance of the “Tank Man” who stood defiantly in front of tanks near Tiananmen Square 29 years ago.
The Tank Man blocked a convoy of tanks on June 5, 1989, after hundreds of thousands of people perished on Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue as the military was ordered to prevent student-led, pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square, according to Shanghaiist.
The official death toll is a source of controversy, as official Chinese government announcements put the number of dead anywhere between 0 to 2,700 while international sources claim upwards of 10,000 civilians slaughtered.
A photo of the Tank Man taken on that deadly day became a global symbol of the crackdown, with images from around the world being shared on social media under the hashtags #tankman and #tankman2018 to commemorate the 29th anniversary of what is also known in China as the June Fourth Incident.
Australia-based Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao started a campaign to honor the Tank Man and showcase his “idealism, passion, sense of responsibility, and confidence that an individual can make a change.”
“Tank Man has been a visual totem for protests of China since 1989. But it is also fading away due to brutal censorship and sophisticated propaganda from the Chinese government,” Badiucao wrote on his website. “The only way to keep it alive is to represent it creatively and bring the figure relevant to what is happening contemporarily.”
Zhou Fengsuo, a student leader who was at the 1989 protests, posed and carried shopping bags in front to the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, USA Today reported.
— 周锋锁 Fengsuo Zhou (@ZhouFengSuo) June 3, 2018
Another photo shows a woman standing before the Goddess of Democracy.
— MySiberia__ (@CanadaGoose1124) June 3, 2018
Others posed on sidewalks while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
One girl held up shopping bags as she posed next to a Winnie the Pooh plush toy, a character banned in China for mocking President Xi Jinping.
Shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre, a British tabloid identified Tank Man as Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student, and son of Beijing factory workers. But its report was unsubstantiated and the man’s whereabouts remain unclear.