For everyone, the image of the lone citizen standing in front of the tank defines the word ‘Tiananmen’ so much so that it was one of the words heavily censored through Google China. The diminutive Unknown Rebel dominates the news cycle every Tiananmen massacre anniversary. With his single act of defiance, he not only showed his courage but came to represent the courage of all Chinese protestors; in short, he replaced the protest’s earlier symbol, the Goddess of Democracy herself.
Above picture was taken by Japanese photojournalist Imaeda Koichi, who reported that he saw no direct killing in the Tiananmen Square. He insisted–and other photojournalists concurred–that by the time the tank arrived and fired upon the tent side, there were only handful of students in the tent. His above picture clearly show the barren abandoned campsite. At daybreak around 5:00 am, the tanks drove towards the place the Goddess of Democracy once stood (it had disappeared by then), crushing everything in its path–tents, railing, boxes of provisions, bicycles.
Nearly all the published photos are of Beijing, despite the fact that large protests took place across China. The paucity of photos was partly be due to restrictions on the movement of foreign journalists at the time in China, and partly due to the lack of camera ownership at the time.
See other photos of the Tiananmen Affair, courtesy of Magnum/Slate here.