The “Tank Man” Sculpture and the Liberty Sculpture Park

The Tank Man Sculpture ready for assembly at the Liberty Sculpture Park located in Los Angeles in preparation for the 30th anniversary of the June 4th Massacre in 1989 (Photo provided by Chen Weimin)

By: Wang Shan – Special Journalist from San Francisco

The year 2019 marks the 30th Anniversary of the June 4th Massacre in 1989. Amongst all the commemoration gatherings, the largest one will take place at the Liberty Sculpture Park. According Mr. Chen Weimin, its coordinator and an artist living in U.S., some 500 people from all over the world including Canada will participate in the commemoration. Also on the agenda is the revelation of the first “Tank Man” sculpture.

Inspired by the iconic photo taken by Jeff Widener, the journalist of the Associated Press during the Massacre in Beijing, Mr. Chen Weimin started the sculpture of the “Tank Man”. In the morning of June 4, 1989, a fearless young man stopped the procession of the military tanks with nothing but his own body. He was known as “Wang Weilin”. It is yet to be confirmed to this day whether it was his real name. The photo “Wang Weilin the Tank Man” shocked the world and is rated to be one of the most powerful photos of the 20th century. Wang was also listed among the “100 Most Influential People” by the《Time》magazine. His blocking of the movement of tanks was applauded by the U.S. media as “the confrontation against a cruel State Apparatus by human conscience and courage”. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the photo “will remain at the world’s conscience as an everlasting image of the 20th century.”

During the past 30 years, many people around the world have been searching the whereabouts of Wang Weilin. It is hoped that the image of the “Tank Man” could become an actual fixture on earth. Today, their wish is fulfilled by Mr. Chen Weimin. The project started a year ago and was completed on the eve of 30th Anniversary of June 4 Massacre, as the first sculpture of the “Tank Man” ever.

Mr. Chen Weimin added that the project was not completed on his own. Many volunteers with excavator at the Liberty Sculpture Park helped build the base of the sculpture. Some of them came all the way from Canada, while others quit their jobs to join hands. Mr. Chen also indicated that everyone who contributed to the finished product of “Tank Man” is a volunteer, including himself. “People of my generation need to shoulder some responsibilities. The sculpture of the “Tank Man” is actually the sculpture of our nation’s spine, our dream and our fights.”

After his graduation from the Central Academy of Arts & Crafts, Mr. Chen focused on production of aesthetic arts, until the democracy movement across China in 1989 and the massacre on June 4th, which became the theme of his work ever since. While many of his peers continue their work of aesthetic arts, or make a good fortune by catering to all kinds of political images in line with the Chinese Communist Party, Mr. Chen is content living a simple life. For this, he’s known as the “Sculptor of Democracy”. His masterpieces of the large bas-relief sculpture of the “Tiananmen Massacre” and the “Chinese Democracy Goddess” were exhibited in numerous big cities of U.S. and drew a lot of attention of American society.

The year before last, together with some friends, Mr. Chen bought a 36-acre-land located by the Highway 15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The Liberty Sculpture Park was built on this lot. # 15 is a hustling highway with large traffic including many tourists from China. The artwork erected in this Park are: the June 4th Monument finished on the 100-day-count-down of the 30th Anniversary of the June 4th Massacre, the Democracy Goddess Statute and the statutes of Liu Xiaobo and Li Wangyang, etc. With the addition of the “Tank Man”, it is the Park’s plan to build a “June 4th Museum” in the future, with collections and displays of all the evidence including clips and recordings of the 1989 Democracy Movement and the Massacre. Liu Jian, a former student from Beijing, expressed his wish to donate to the Museum all of some 2000 pictures he took at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The kickoff of the 30th Anniversary will last from June 3rd till the morning of June 4th. Other than the opening ceremony of the “Tank Man”, there will also be shows performed by the participants. The tired ones can take a nap in the tents at the park, just like the students did at Tiananmen Square in 1989 petitioning for freedom and democracy in China.