Skip to Main Content

Discussion Guide – The Unknown Rebel’s Courage at Tiananmen Square


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s) (Note: Because the identity of the man standing in front of the tanks is unknown, this activity will refer to him as the Unknown Rebel.)

  1. Is the Unknown Rebel a hero, or was he reckless to risk his life?
  2. Are stands such as the one he took “worth it”? How do you know?
  3. How would the Unknown Rebel’s act of nonviolent defiance have been characterized by the Chinese government? If individuals in the People’s Liberation Army (of China) were awarded medals for bravery by the government, would those have been deserved? Explain.
  4. When most of us look back at this period in history and at this picture, who are we more likely to see ourselves as—the people driving the tanks, the individual standing in front of the tanks, or perhaps others watching from a safe distance? Explain.
  5. Do you believe the Unknown Rebel, or any of the other demonstrators, experienced fear? Or might they have acted in spite of fear? Describe a time that you, or someone you know, acted courageously in spite of fear.
  6. Should everyone try to “block” actions of others with which they do not agree? What kinds of injustices, if any, warrant this kind of protest?
  7. The country in which the unknown rebel lived had severe restrictions on free speech, press, ownership of property, and other personal liberties. In the United States, we live in a country with a greater degree of individual rights and freedoms. Why are the ideas in this discussion guide especially important for citizens living in a free society?
  8. How can you show courage in your own life? Identify examples…
    • at home?
    • at school and in extra-curricular activities?
    • in your community?