(2008) Tankman Wang Welin Probably Met a Bad End – by Wu Renhua

See the video for yourself — here is a link to the PBS Frontline program The Tankman.

Not long ago the Voice of America journalist Shu Guofu invited me for a video and audio interview. The reason of the interview was that a University of California at Berkeley tankmananthropology professor has provided a new study result and he would like to get my take on the result of the study. This professor determined that at the scene of the tank Wang Weilin first fell into the hands of plainclothes police and then into the hands of martial law soldiers.

This anthropology professor is an expert on the body language (body movement) of human beings. For many years he pays close attention to the fate of Wang Weilin. He repeatedly studies videos of the scenes where Wang Weilin blocked the tank until when he was pushed away. There were more than one video but most of them are the same. They were taken by different foreign journalists at the same time, location and angle from the porch of Beijing Hotel.

The time when Wang Weilin blocked the tank was on June 5, 1989. The location was Dongchanganjie near Tiananmen Square. The videos showed that Wang Weilin blocked the convoy of more than ten tanks which were advancing from east to west on Dongchanganjie in the direction of Tiananmen Square. He moved from left to right several times blocking the convoy of tanks which attempted to move past him. Once he even boarded the first tank and talked to the soldiers in the tank. Then a young man on a bicycle came along and approached Wang Weilin and had a brief conversation with him. Immediately after that two other young men came to pull Wang Weilin away and then one on each side seized him, took him away from the scene and quickly to the side of the street. For many years many people believe that the three young men who pulled Wang Weilin away were kind-hearted people from the crowd and that once he reached the side of the road he quickly hid himself among the crowd at the side of the street and safely got away.

This anthropologist studied closely the body language of the three young people and Wang Weilin and concluded that the three young people were not ordinary citizens but were instead specially-trained plainclothesmen. Wang Weilin did not escape but was arrested on the spot and his fate was ominous. To this day nobody knows what happened to him.

Having been concerned about the fate of Wang Weilin for many years and to get ready to give my views, I once again repeatedly studied the documentary film. I put it on a big screen and varied the speed of the film so that I could study it in great detail, paying close attention to the body language of Wang Weilin and the three young men. If that professor of anthropology had not pointed it out, most people would not notice the body language. There wasn’t anything that looked like a conflict or overly bodily conflict. The two young men who later appeared very professionally seized Wang from his two sides.

If you look closely, you can see them twisting his arms and pressing on the vertebrae in his back (when I passed the entrance examination for Peking University I was a professional officer in the People’s Armed Police and so I have some knowledge of this type of moves that paralyze people.) Their moves prevented Wang Weilin who wanted to fight to the death from even making a move and could only submit passively to towards the side of the street. The young man who first approached Wang Weilin immediately gestured to the tank after Wang had been seized and been taken from the center of the road. The professor of anthropology believes that that was not a gesture that an ordinary person would make but it is instead a trained gesture filled with significance.

I watched the film closely several times and each time became more and more convinced that the anthropology professor’s expert judgment was correct. What is especially important to me is that the documentary film that the professor chose ran a dozen or more seconds longer than most of the frequently shown videos. This sequence continues until Wang Weilin was pushed up onto the sidewalk. I noticed that there were only two or three unidentified plainclothesmen there, that there was no crowd gathered at all and that Wang Weilin had nowhere to hide.

Even more important, a row of tanks had already stopped there, indicating that even if this was not a restricted area belonging to the martial law troops it was very close to it and very close to Tiananmen Square in the vicinity of Nanchizi where ordinary people were not allowed to approach. It was the same area where, from the early morning to the morning of June 4, a large number of Beijing citizens tried to go to Tiananmen to support the students but were repeatedly shot down by the soldiers of the martial law troops. The horrifying slaughter there was second only to the massacre on West Chang’an Avenue. My book The Bloody Clearing of Tiananmen Square includes many eyewitness accounts, providing a detailed documentary of the massacre at Nanchizi.


I had previously thought that the location where Wang Weilin blocked the tanks was nearer the Beijing Hotel and further away from Tiananmen. I believe there would have been a big crowd on the side of the street there and that once Wang Weilin reached the sidewalk there, he might have been able to quickly melt into the crowd and get away safely.

Using the video control, I paused and rewound the video many times. Finally I could clearly see the serial number on the side of the tank. That tank belonged to the First Division of the Tianjin Garrison Command.

If the anthropology professor’s study results above and my own analysis are correct, we can basically conclude that Wang Weilin’s fate is ominous. He might have died under the brutal force of the Martial law troops. All of the students and ordinary people arrested within and without the square before and after Tiananmen was cleared were badly beaten by the martial law troops using clubs and gun butts. Many were killed and even more were disabled for life.

Shanxi University student Gao Xu was arrested in Tiananmen Square and beaten until he was permanently disabled. He described his own experiences. The detainees were all locked up near the Tiananmen watchtower in either the Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace or in Zhongshan Park. Both locales became execution grounds for martial law troops blowing off steam. The detainees didn’t get food or water for three days.

I have always thought that “Wang Weilin” was not the real name of that young man who blocked the tank alone and that the name was just a rumor. From the way he was dressed, he must have been a student but not a student from Beijing. When he was blocking the tank, he had carried a little sack with him. Only students from outside Beijing carried sacks for carrying toothpaste, toothbrush and other daily necessities along with ID cards like their student ID.

The professor’s study results and my own commentary may already be on the Voice of America website. There must be a video accompanying it. If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the study you can go on the website to search for it.

June 2008

Online in Chinese on the Epoch Times website at http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/8/6/7/n2146536.htm













About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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