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One man's defiant gesture

By DAVID R. SCHWEISBERG

BEIJING, June 5, 1989 (UPI) - In a remarkable gesture that seemed to symbolize the spirit of China's pro-democracy movement, a man stepped in front of a column of tanks Monday in attempt to stop their advance.

The defiance of the average Chinese in the face of bullets and tanks -- more massive in appearance when viewed from close up -- has been stunning, considering that previously most people in Beijing usually did as they were told.

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Reed-thin students sat placidly in Tiananmen Square Saturday night, singing songs and making speeches, even as an army with blood already on its hands advanced toward them, bayonets glinting in the square's eerie light. But the students were already committed.

Hospital officials report that more than 300 people have died since troops sent in to quell the protests opened fire Saturday.

Unofficial sources said the death toll was much higher, and one unidentified Red Cross official said thousands of people had died in the crackdown on the student-led uprising.

On Monday, when everyone knew the army was shooting unarmed civilians, a column of tanks rumbled out of the square east toward the Beijing Hotel. They were met by the man in a white shirt.

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The man simply stood in front of the lead tank.

When the tank tried to move around him, he sidestepped to remain in its path. Emboldened at not being obliterated, he then climbed up on the tank and yelled at its commander, apparently trying to persuade the tanks to turn around.

A soldier briefly stuck his head out of the tank and apparently spoke to the man.

The unidentified man then got off the tank and stood to the side. But when the tanks began moving again the man moved back in front of them once more.

Finally, friends stepped into the street and hauled him back.

The tanks continued on their way.

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