A Chinese artist has called for people around the world to pose as the iconic “Tank Man” on June 4 to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre.
“Tank Man” was an unidentified man who stood in front of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military’s crackdown on Beijing protesters who had been calling for reforms for over a month.
The artist and cartoonist Badiucao, who is based in Australia, conducted the performance himself in Adelaide on June 4, 2016.
“For the coming anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre in 2018, I want to continue the project and expand this art campaign worldwide. This is an invitation for everyone who celebrates and defends universal human rights,” Badiucao said.
“Tank Man has been a visual totem for protests in China since 1989. But it is also fading away due to brutal censorship and sophisticated propaganda from the Chinese government.”
“The only way to keep it alive is to represent it creatively and make the figure relevant to what is happening contemporarily.”
He said people can conduct the performance anywhere they want on June 4 in a classic Tank Man outfit – white shirt, black pants and black shoes. Performers can wear masks to protect their identity, and carry two shopping bags displaying political designs that can be downloaded from his site.
Badiucao also urged women to participate to support the MeToo campaign, the wives of persecuted human rights lawyers in China and Liu Xia, the widow of late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.
“The image of tank man’s bags always strikes one as if they are magic weapons used to defeat the tanks in from of him,” he said.
“I always wonder what today’s tank man would hold in his hands. And I think the vivid culture of online satire and resistance must be the best symbols for the tank man’s new gear.”
He suggested that performers stand on a chair for one to two hours posing as Tank Man, and ask a friend to take photos and videos or live stream the performance.
Badiucao is an HKFP contributor.