In China, a “ghost” is a person who has disappeared without a trace. A “hero” is someone who challenged authority in a manner that comes to the attention of the populace. The ghost hero of the story is an artist who got caught up in the demonstrati0ns in Tienanmen Square in 1989. In the story, witnesses report that Chau Chun was killed when the army opened fire on the demonstrators.
The mentions throughout the story of the demonstration in Tiananmen Square are all too familiar. In early June, 1989, students began a protest in the Square and in the streets surrounding it. The army moved in to remove several thousand protestors. The next day, Army tanks approached the square where they were confronted by one man, identity unknown, who stood in front of the lead tank and brought the line to a stop. His action was broadcast live on television in the west and people were riveted to the screen by the calm courage of the man in the white dress shirt. We watched, numb, waiting for what was certain to be a bloody confrontation.
From Wikipedia: “Having successfully brought the column to a halt, the man climbed onto the hull of the buttoned-up lead tank and, after briefly stopping at the driver’s hatch, appeared in video footage of the incident to call into various ports in the tank’s turret. He then climbed atop the turret and seemed to have a short conversation with a crew member at the gunner’s hatch. After ending the conversation, the man alighted from the tank. The tank commander briefly emerged from his hatch, and the tanks restarted their engines, ready to continue on. At that point, the man, who was still standing within a meter or two from the side of the lead tank, leapt in front of the vehicle once again and quickly reestablished the man–tank standoff. Video footage shows that two figures in blue attire then pulled the man away and disappeared with him into a nearby crowd”.
The government has never released any information about the lone dissident but it is generally believed that he was executed with a few days of the demonstration. The number of deaths in Tiananmen Square is given as in the hundreds but most of the students were killed on the streets leading from the square. That number is likely to be in the range of 3000. No one who watched television that night, anywhere in the western world, will forget the impact of that one young man who, with his grocery bags in his hands, decided to take a stand at that moment, on that day, and paid with his life. He is believed to have been nineteen years old.
That was reality television. While this was happening, there were western journalists broadcasting from the square, each in danger of immediate arrest. One of the most shocking aspects of the confrontation was that the Chinese didn’t shut it down much sooner. The world saw the iron fist.