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photo of a man facing down a tank in 1989photo of soldiers suppressing the 1989 protestsphoto of a man arguing with soldiers

What are your reactions to this report on Tiananmen 1989 and its legacy for the Chinese government and people? What is your memory of that time, and the image of the man who stood up to the column of tanks?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this remarkable documentary. I never saw such conprehensive coverage of the Tiananmen events in June 1989. I think the section on economics and inequality are less well done, and sometimes inaccurate. But the irony in the final part on control of information is unbeatable: here are western firms stating how they help China control information,even though it goes "against their core principles" being interrogated by congressmen that love to beat up on China, but not addressing the issue of misinformation at home, and possible criminal behavious by their own president and government that is invading privacy of their own citizen.

Beijing, China

Dear FRONTLINE,

What the Chinese Government needs to do it to face the problem up front. It has to admit that the Tiananmen Incident was a mistake that will never be ever made again, and push the road for political reform. It has to admit that there are "two Chinas", the rich urban China, and the poor rural China. China's youth must know about the 1989 incident, it played an important role in turning their country into what it is today, and probably what it will be in the future.

Dennis Neo
Singapore, Singapore

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was born in the early 80s in China and came to the US in the mid 90s. I really enjoyed the program. The point that I want to make is there is no country in the world that is comparable to China. China has being a unique nation in the past and will continue to be in the future. The huge popullation is an important part of its uniqueness. Due to the law of economic and scarcity, it is impossible for everyone in China to be rich and well-being. It is ironic that China is doing a lot of "uncommunistic" stuff by making part of the country rich at the sacrafice of the poor. I am not saying that is the right thing to do base on human rights. However, that may be the right thing to do for a country with this large of a popullation.

Similarly, the 1989 event was probably not the right thing to do. However, I feel that without the government taking such an action, China (or at least part of China) will not be as well as today. The most important thing for China or for any country, is stability, not human rights. It is impossible to give that large number of Chinese people equal rights in choosing their governor. Imagine the whole earth is one nation, the communistic with Chinese uniqueness type of government may be the only way to govern.

Eric Tan
Bay area, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was born in 1982. I was born and raised in Guangzhou, China. I came to U.S. in 1996. I remembered that the Chinese Mass Media still had its own freedom of speech before the Tiananmen Square incident happened. I always love to watch your programs plus other public televisions that are none biased. But I have to say that this program(Tank Man) is biased.

. I admitthe Tiananmen Square incident was a tragedy done by the Communism. I don't deny nor questioned about the methods they used to crush the protest. But, I believe democracy is not the golden key to open up China either, or perhaps it is. We must look at it as a trial experiment, there is failure then there is success. Besides, I am certainly sure that in the future, the Communism regime in China will admitted their wrongdoings about the Tiananmen Square incident.

Part of your program touched the issue about the freedom of speech. In order to make a protest, one has to turn to a method which only recognized by the Communism government in China under its rule. An example: ???? (Simplified Chinese) the following web site serves as an online forum which recognized by the Communism government in China. http://bbs.people.com.cn/bbs/start A lot of posts have harsh critiques about the current regime. China is not the only country that has information control. The U.S. government also uses this program or software called "WSC..." to scan Internet emails among individuals. Why don't you investigate about this too about how U.S. government itself attempts to control the public media over the Internet?

I have been living here for 10 years. The so-called freedom of speech in here also limited by what we see and what we hear which controlled by the Mass Media. The ABC and CBS... rarely broadcast information about other countries except big events. Most of the time, they focus only on the issues related to local and national.

Finall, your program touched the issues regarding economic reform in China. I only partial agree with some of the statements w offered by your commentators. It is a common sense that cities grow faster if they are located near major river, major ports and ocean where foreign trade and commerce bring them a fortune. The cities that you have mentioned such as Guangzhou and Shanghai... all have the above characteristics. The rural area developed slower because they are considered inaccessible. As a result, the younger generations are moving out to the big cities to seek job opportunities. It is also true that most of the wealthy people in China don't contributed back a penny to their country. It is also true that they are self-fish, greedy, and cold hearted. Let's not to forget these elements are characteristic of Capitalism. I watched a program which produced by PBS about Castro. His vision of communism did work in Cuba although he failed the economic part. Before the introduction of Capitalism, there aren't any prostitutions and etc... And after the arrival of Capitalism, prostitutions happen in Cuba... And that is why the Chinese communism regime is trying to put back the teaching of Confucianism into the current society. Among all, I don't like the comment where they remarked that they are the losers of this economic reform to those whom left out without any jobs and to those who still living in rural. If there isn't any economic reform, more and more people could turn into discontented. There is always a winner and a loser. It depends on which side one weights more. So, the economic reform is a double-edged sword. As a farmer in China, there is many taxes that needed to be pay in the past. Since Jan 1st, 2006 the Chinese party had veto any taxes charged against for the farmers. There will be no taxes for the farmers whatsoever. It is here that your program failed to keep update and failed to mention!

Yu Wan
fremont , california

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

While the government's taxes on farmers has been rolled back, farmers still struggle with taxation by local authorities who are often corrupt.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dream ,hope, tear, anger and desperation... The documentary reminds me of that particular year which I will never forget in the rest of my life. I watched this episode last night and also asked my wife to watch. As college students in 1989, I and most of my classmates participated in this democratic movement.

... Now, after 17 years, 4 interviewed Beijing university students shaked their heads and asked interviewer the meaning of that "tank man" picture" .... Even myself and many others in my age who were in that event sometime asks ourselves, "did we really need go to street to protest?" Frontline asks the same kind of question "why today's people choose to forget?" Maybe it is because now Chinese people gain more opportunities in economy? or maybe our dream is already dead? I don't know. If "tank man" is still alive, any of our lives could be his life, he could be a successful entrepreneur, he could be a middle class employee, or he could be struggling for survival. Thank you, Frontline, what a great program. I hope, one day, A program like this would be produced and released in China.

R. Zheng
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching "Tank Man" I felt overwhelmingly compelled to send a thank-you note for yet another work of journalistic excellence. No other organization goes as deeply into it's subject to uncover the truth as does Frontline. Five stars and two thumbs up. But I must take issue with one point - the tank man's statement was one of defiance, not one of eviction. My inner voice hears him saying "... you [the army minions] are cowards to hide in your machines. If you want to kill innocent Chinese countrymen, come out now and face me - man to man." That's why they maneuvered to avoid him and drove away so quickly. Cowards.

In closing, it truly will be the question of the millenium as to how Communism and Capitalism cohabitate. I see another "Berlin Wall Day" in the making (centuries from now).

daniel g
san francisco, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Some have noted in this forum that if I could have understood Chinese, I would have known that these students knew exactly what this photograph represented, and that they were simply afraid to discuss it while being recorded by the media. To me this makes the students' responses an even more profound demonstration of the freedoms that the Chinese people still do not have today. These are exactly the rights, freedoms, and fearlessness that tankman made a stand for.

Separately, I would also like to say that I did not feel this program was specifically blaming the Chinese government for entering the global economy and the unfortunate social outfalls, nor the business leaders who took advantage of the opprotunity. But it seems they merely intended to illuminate the fact that in receiving economic freedom people have tragically forgotten the fight for greater freedoms. The blame is a guilt which is spread as far as the products produced by Chinese companies. Everyone of us is called to stand witness to the memory of the tankman, and speak out, and act out to the best of our abilities. If we do not we become the mechanisms which prop oppressive regimes, we become the Tiananmen Square soldiers shooting blindly into crowds.

In the West we can no longer morallessly shop demanding the lowest prices, naively thinking that we are simply doing what is best for the free market. We must come to terms that the money we spend is used to oppress, exploit, enslave, and even kill real people.

Is there a way to find Chinese businesses that support worker rights, honor environmental health, and openly oppose government censorship and human rights violations? We need to find these companies and show them that we support their courage.

My advice to those planning China's future is to look at the good which industrialization and consumerism has done for United States but also look at the social scars it has left. Your textile mills and worker housing programs look very similar to Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1850's. Be very careful before you abandon small independent family farms. In America we are only now beginning to recognize their importance to social and environmental health. Let it go to show that all the wealth in the world can not buy healthy, happy, creative, and free thinking minds. In the end this is what we truely desire, in the end this is what will truely make a country the greatest nation in the world.

Nathan Holmes
,

Dear FRONTLINE,

I don't know how much of urgency among chinese people really feel for political freom. Even young chinese educated people live abroad who have fewer censoored information about China, most people still care much more about economic gain rathern than endeavoring into political discourse.

I would also like to disabuse certain points about the absolute negative implication of party elites in the frontline roundtable. We tend to overlook the other side of the picture. Granted, plenty of them abuse their power, however, the very few that have the ability and relative honesty could bring huge overall benefits to China. Contemporary history proves this. They are ruling China now and in the near future, since ordinary chinese people don't want to meddle with dangerously abstract politics and rely on the very few on the top to bring them tangible benefits.

Ji Zhang
Delaware, OHIO

Dear FRONTLINE,

Reading the variety of letters and opinions posted on the Frontline site generated by The Tank Man episode was truely a wonderful experience. I want to thank everyone who posted for adding to this discussion. I read every letter. Thank you to the Chinese writers for their insights. Sharing your experiences gave me a better insight into feelings about China today.

Thank you Frontline for reminding us that all is not well in China. When will the Chinese worker decide that they will no longer work under such conditions? It was apparent that the students knew of The Tank Man and were not free to share their opinions about the photo. When will the Communist Party acknowledge the past? They carry a heavy burden. The show was a strong reminder that we can not be careless with the freedoms we have earned in the U.S.

P K Mills
West Chester, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching your documentary Tank Man, which I found insightful and compelling, I couldn't help but wonder if narrative won out over critique in the end. I am thinking in particular of two scenes depicting conversations with China's youth. In one scene, where thee Chinese female factory workers are being interviewed, the camera consciously captures the communist party "minders" dutifully monitoring the interview. Yet in another scene, where three promising college students are asked to describe the circumstances surrounding the tank man picture, and respond with bewilderment, saying they've never seen the photo, no party "minders" are included in the frame, nor are mentioned in the narrative. Certainly there were "minders" present at this interview, similar to the interview at the factory. Why did the filmmaker not mention this?

Ted Tanner
Irvine, CA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

The " Making the Film" section of this Web site offers an interview with filmmaker Antony Thomas in which he explains the circumstances surrounding how he was able to show the picture to the university students.

Dear FRONTLINE,

The "Tankman" documentary really brought me back to the whole 6/4 incident, and reminded me of the reasons why I actually have the framed poster in my room back at my parents' home in Canada. I bought a print of the tankman poster long ago while I was first attending college, and like the documentary, I too remember staring up at the poster for long periods of time wondering to myself whatever happened to the Tankman, and silently praying that he too is alive and safe somewhere.

No matter what your views are regarding the Tiananmen Square incident, I think that being Chinese, we take away a profound sense of pride from that day - that we as a people will persist and endeavour to stand strong in the face of oppression, just as the Tankman did.

Stephen Pong
Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was preparing a trip to China that summer but turned to visit China's more civil cousin Taiwan when the Communist Party revealed its true self on June 4. Exactly two months later, I made my way into what was still a "hushed" China. I have not seen the program yet, but I have to beg you to consider two things. It was a remarkable image, no doubt, but the man who changed the world was, in fact, the lead tank driver who chose not to do "his job". Second, whatever you do, please do not disclose that tank driver's identity, because if he hasn't been executed yet, he surely will be incarcerated for the rest of his life if you identify him. Thank you for the truth.

James Brian
Denver, CO

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am so sad to read the comments given by Chinese in this board. It seems for most of them, the 1989 massacre is forgetable. Yes, most Chinese today try hard to forget it. Theose people especially those "well educated" people (who knows what kind of education they received from communist China)now only consider themselves. They know nothing but money. They sold their soul to the evil communist government!!!!

Sometimes I wonder why God does not destroy this soulless nation just as He did on Sodom and Gomorrah. It's His amazing grace so we can live until today as a nation. But a nation who forget the history is a hopeless nation.Some day we will be punished.

Hongshen Lu
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

As the same age as the four students in Beijing University, I cried during the show. I can't imaging how much we have forgot our history, only 17 years ago. I remembered my Father and my grand father arguing "who" killed "who" after the killing. My father was in the hospital and saw the blood of the Students and Beijing Residence, and my grand farther was watching CCTV.

I want thank Director of "The Tank Man" and FRONTLINE, and I felt sad because we have to let friends from other country to remind our own history.

Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

People who don't know the past and present don't have a future. There's also a similar proverb in Chinese -- take history as a mirror of the future. As a Chinese born and raised in Beijing and witnessed part of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, I cannot agree more with the wisdom of the ancient wise.

The only reason the "Tank Men" (WANG Weilin) was not crushed on the scene is because he was being watched by the camera of western media. The video was shot from a balcony or window overseeing the Chang'an Ave of Beijing Hotel, where most foreign reporters were stationed at the time. Pictures showing the remains of young men and women flattened by tanks are extremely shocking and horrifying and thus not aired by the program. They were not so lucky because the world was not watching. The tank man's luck ran out as soon as he was captured. He simply evaporated from earth since then.

The communist regime has and will continue to resort to anything to stay in power. The regime has learned that bad publicity (killing innocent people) harms its business with the free world, business means cash and cash means legitimacy to stay in power. However, it will never change its oppressive nature. I have to acknowledge that the regime is a fast learner and has adapted quickly to the changing world, in its own way. For example, if killing innocent people in public does no good for the regime, it will just do it in secrecy. Look at what has happened to the Falun Gong spiritual group since 1999, thousands have died in prisons, labor camps, and recently revealed underground facilities (Sujiatun) for lucrative organ harvesting. Ironically, for the same reason, business opportunities, most western media chose to be silent or even tried to toe the line to please the regime in order to gain more rights for business.

I have to make another point about the so called economy success of China since so many people attribute it to the regime. I believe the success is the fruit of Chinese working class who has always been hardworking, creative and diligent. The totalitarian regime merely loosened the rope a little bit so that it can milk out more.

I am sad that most people educated in China would rather avoid topics like this or shift their overly optimistic eyes to a prosperous future. Ignoring the painful past and present is not going to guarantee a bright future.

Joe Zhang
Cincinnati, Ohio

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posted apr. 11, 2006

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