June 2009

On June 4, 1989—twenty years ago this week—government troops killed hundreds and injured thousands more in a crackdown on protestors in Tianamen Square, Beijing, China. In April 2009, for the first time in two decades, Chinese people were able to search for information about these protests on the internet after the Chinese government removed some of its heavy censorship.

In this lesson students will:

  • Consider the concept of censorship and analyze the merits of censorship versus freedom of information.
  • Learn about the protests in Beijing in 1989.
  • Work collaboratively to interpret an image from multiple perspectives.


Lesson: Looking at the Tank Man

Image of The Tank Man


“The Tank Man,” a FRONTLINE program that aired in April 2006.
Click “Watch the Full Program Online” to choose chapter.

More Videos from Choices

Xu Wenli
Senior Fellow
Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

What caused the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and government crackdown? [3:05]

How does the “Golden Shield Project” censor internet activity? [0:55]

What are other ways the Chinese government controls the flow of information? [3:03]

Additional Online Resources

BBC news report from Tiananmen Square on the morning of June 4, 1989.

“The Tank Man” from April 2006. This site includes a timeline, interviews, and analysis as well as additional lesson plans.

New York Times
“Tiananmen Now Seems Distant to China’s Students” from May 21, 2009.

“On This Day—June 4, 1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square”

The China Post
“Ma to Issue Tiananmen Square Incident Statement”

New York Times
Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen
This blog explores the four different photographs of the tank man that were taken by Western journalists. It analyzes the differences between the photos and also includes recollections from the photographers about the incident.

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