The bystander, holding shopping bags, blocked a line of tanks heading into the square, and then climbed onto a tank and started talking to the crew. This happened for a few minutes until two random people ran up and dragged him away before the tank crew could contemplate how they would clean their tank treads of protester.
That man, who briefly stopped the government tanks all by himself and appeared in one of the most iconic photos and pieces of video in world history, was never heard from again.
So Who Was He?
After the incident, reports were incomplete and contradictory. British newspapers reported that the man was possibly a 19-year-old student named Wang Weilin. Others said he wasn't. The paper went on to claim he was arrested for trying to subvert communism and for "hooliganism" (China apparently having a completely different idea of what "hooliganism" is). However, no man by the name of Wang Weilin, outside of a number of Guitar Hero avatars, is known to exist.
Frontline: Tank Man
"I don't care about politics, I just want to be known as Tank Man."
When the Communist Party of China checked his name out, they claimed to find no records of him ever existing. Many Western officials have maintained that the man was executed a few weeks after the incident, while people who were at the protests claim that he is alive and well somewhere in China.
In 1990, during an interview with Barbara Walters, the General Secretary of the Communist Party said he didn't know whether the man was arrested, but he reassuringly said, "I think never killed."
"Plus I forgot my wallet today. I'm just so flaky!"
We may never know who he was, but the man did what many others could not: walk up to a column of moving tanks and live to tell about it. For a while, at least.