Jun 4, 2014

Adjunct professor Xiao Qiang and the Iconic — and Missing — Tiananmen Square Protestor

From The Los Angeles Times

From the archives: An Icon of the '89 Tiananmen protests and then he's gone

By John M. Glionna

(Originally published June 4, 2004)

For many foreigners, he is Tiananmen Square's most recognizable figure, outshining even Chairman Mao Tse-tung -- whose body still lies in state at a far end of the vast public space.

Just after noon on June 5, 1989, the day after Chinese troops stormed the square to brutally crush a student political uprising here, a solitary protester engaged in a modern-day David versus Goliath showdown: Clutching nothing but two shopping bags, he stood his ground before a column of oncoming tanks on the adjacent Avenue of Eternal Peace....

On the 15th anniversary of the government crackdown in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed, this lone dissenter's story remains the most enduring mystery of the violent confrontation.

No one knows whether he's dead or alive. Chinese activists and government officials say they aren't even sure of his name....

Human rights activist [and School of Information adjunct professor] Xiao Qiang calls his inability to locate the protester one of his most frustrating failures. Xiao was studying abroad at the University of Notre Dame when the Tiananmen crackdown occurred.

He watched coverage of the chaos on television, including the footage of the protester's standoff. Two days later, he returned to China and spent three months there to be with his countrymen at a difficult time.

"This incident changed my life," said Xiao, who later worked as executive director of Human Rights in China....


Last updated:

October 4, 2016