Two Tiananmen Mysteries: Tank Man and Xi’s Wife

Unless you live in China, you have almost certainly seen the iconic photo or video of the man with two shopping bags who faced down a column of tanks as they moved through Tiananmen Square. And you might remember the moment when several people pulled him out of harm's way. The photo, by AP photographer Jeff Widener, is one of the most iconic and stirring images in history – the mechanized killing power of the state stopped in its tracks by a single human being. To this day, that human being has never been identified. Theories abound about what happened to him. Was he killed? Did he go into hiding? Surely no one has ever been so widely recognized and yet so anonymous.


From the other side of the square, another interesting image: Chinese president Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan is a famous folk singer. Several years ago, a photo surfaced online which seemed to show her singing to the troops on Tiananmen square around the time of the massacre. The image was quickly wiped from Chinese internet, but you can see a snapshot of it here. Xi himself has no misgivings about Tiananmen, in case you are wondering.

America's internet giants are being pulled into political fights right and left these days. Speech – what can be said, and who can say it – is increasingly at the center of those controversies. Consider these two stories from opposite sides of the world:

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