‘Did We Stand on the Side of Tank Man?’: An Interview with Teng Biao

At a U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Washington on the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this week, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao presented his listeners with a choice.

“History will require us to answer one question: Did we stand on the side of the ‘Tank Man,’ or on the side of the tank?” Mr. Teng said Wednesday, referring to the iconic photo of a lone man blocking a convoy of military vehicles during the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

Mr. Teng isn’t from the generation that marched in Beijing and other cities 26 years ago; at the time he was a high school student at a county in northeastern China.

Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities. His law license was revoked in 2008; authorities have not publicly given a reason. He was harassed and in 2011 was detained for more than 70 days in an unknown location, with officials again declining to publicly address his treatment. He left the mainland in 2012 for Hong Kong.

A year ago, the normally soft-spoken Mr. Teng delivered a forceful speech in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, declaring at a vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown: “You can’t kill us all.”

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