Source: China Digital Times (6/6/23)
Word(s) of the Week: “Objects Placed in a Row” (物体排成一排, WÙTǏ PÁICHÉNG YĪPÁI)
By Cindy Carter
The sight of a lone man standing before a row of tanks in Beijing is perhaps the most enduring image to emerge from the Tiananmen Protests of 1989. Photographs taken on June 5 of that year—one day after PLA troops crushed the protests, killing and injuring untold numbers of Chinese citizens—show an unidentified man dressed in a white shirt and black trousers and holding two shopping bags, standing before a line of tanks on Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue. The identity and fate of the individual who has come to be known as “Tank Man” are unconfirmed.
Images of Tank Man are completely censored on the Chinese internet and social media. This heavy-handed censorship has given rise to many variations on a theme, in an effort to evade censorship. Photoshopped permutations of the “objects in a row” theme are manifold: in some, the line of tanks has been replaced by enormous yellow rubber ducks, Lego figures, cartoon characters, or food items such as zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.) In others, “Tank Man” himself has been replaced by a cartoon or video-game character, a Lego man, a “grass-mud horse,” or another animate or inanimate object. Typographic and ideographic tricks also abound: strings of Chinese characters such as 占占人 and 占占占人 have been used to represent a person standing in front of two, three, or more tanks, while the combinations 占占点 and 占点占 resemble a person being crushed by tanks. In June of 2012, a Sohu Weibo user had their account blocked after posting this extraordinary string of characters representing a person being crushed under four tanks: 占占占占人 占占占点 占占点占 占点占占 点占占占 灬占占占占. Continue reading