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Monday, June 5, 1989

Globe and Mail Update

Beijing, China — Monday, June 5, 1989

This story was written under martial law restrictions. Chinese authorities have ordered foreign journalists in Beijing not to report on events in or near Tiananmen Square or interview Chinese involved in any banned activities, including demonstrations.

Troops again opened fire on thousands of angry civilians today as China's capital lay paralyzed after two days of a military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that may have killed as many as 3,000 people.

The new clash broke out after hundreds of thousands of people returned to the streets to block army troops who cut a bloody swath through the city during the weekend, clearing protesters from Tiananmen Square at the heart of the capital. The military warned today that the capture of Tiananmen was ''just an initial victory'' and predicted a long fight against the ''dregs of society.'' A foreign resident of the university quarter in the northwest part of the city said automatic gunfire could be heard around Beijing University and the People's University.

Troops were widely expected to move against students in the area, some of whom have captured armored cars and machine guns while others have manufactured gasoline bombs.

Tanks roared up and down the Avenue of Eternal Peace early today as student protesters, shaken but infuriated by the weekend's bloodshed, called for a city-wide strike.

There was no sign that the students and their supporters had given up their call for more political freedom.

Early yesterday morning, troops using tanks, tear gas and automatic weapons killed possibly thousands of people and injured many more in a full-scale assault on Tiananmen.

Many people - students, women and young children - were shot. Others were crushed by tanks or armed personnel carriers, which rolled down the Avenue of Eternal Peace, the city's main boulevard, at dawn.

It is the first time in the 40-year history of Communist China that the army has turned its guns on civilians in Beijing. It is also the first time that tanks have been used in the capital.

Around 2 a.m. yesterday, troops sealed the square, leaving about 5,000 university students stranded there. Witnesses said tanks rolled over some of their tents, crushing the occupants. All the while, loudspeakers broadcast a continuous two-minute message urging ''all patriotic citizens'' to ''oppose turmoil.'' Most students managed to escape. Authorities doused the lights on the square at 4 a.m. and the students, mostly in their late teens or early 20s, started weeping in the dark. Over loudspeakers, the government ordered them to leave the square. They took a hasty vote and decided to do so.

At 5 a.m. the soldiers allowed them to exit through the south side of the square. As they left, walking hand in hand, riot police beat them with belts and truncheons. Once out of the square, the students headed northwest. As they turned on to the Avenue of Eternal Peace, an armored personnel carrier chased stragglers. It mowed down 11 students, killing seven instantly, a Western reporter said.

Other witnesses said some students refused to leave the square, but this could not be confirmed. They said about 100 linked arms to face the soldiers but were shot down. Another 100 or so behind them stepped forward, but they too were shot.

A tank later demolished the Goddess of Democracy statue, erected in the square by students just a week ago.

As word spread of the mass slaughter, a defiant unarmed crowd of several thousand - some on foot, others on bicycles - massed throughout the day and evening at the northeastern approach to the square.

When soldiers raised their assault weapons, the crowd panicked. As terrified people fled down the street, soldiers fired repeatedly into their backs. After 10 or 15 minutes, people would creep back to carry away the dead and wounded. Then the survivors would stream back to the same spot. This pattern repeated itself at least six times yesterday.

By mid-morning there were pools of blood on the ground outside the Forbidden City. Doctors said the army prevented ambulances from picking up wounded. Some ambulances went in anyway and several doctors were killed, medical staff at one hospital said.

The government did not release casualty figures. Diplomats said that more than 1,000 people were killed in yesterday's violence, while students insisted the real death toll was in the thousands. Other estimates ranged from 300 to 3,000.

The number of injured is probably many times the number of dead. At the Union Hospital near the square, the dead and injured lay in hallways on bloody mattresses. Doctors there said their hospital alone had 40 dead and 169 injured.

Yesterday's early-morning assault came after two weeks of martial law. The student protest began on April 15, when deposed Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang died. It later developed into a massive sit-in at Tiananmen Square for democratic reforms and an end to high-level corruption.

Many people did not believe the army would fire on them. On Saturday evening, as had happened several times before, truckloads of troops were immobilized on the outskirts of the city.

At one convoy of 18 trucks surrounded by hundreds of civilians, a mother, holding a bag of groceries in one hand and her young son's arm in the other, admonished a sheepish soldier.

''You are the people's army," she scolded.

By midnight several hundred thousand people had gathered at the square, partly to protect the students, partly as a night out. Lovers embraced in the shadowy paths near the Forbidden City across from the square. One man sat with his young daughter on the grass near a bed of roses.

When the first armored personnel carrier roared by, forcing people to jump out of its path, the crowd grew angry. Because of the sheer density of the crowd, people managed to stop three of the carriers, and set them on fire about 1 a.m.

Beijing echoed with machine-gun fire throughout the night. Troops shot and killed people at at least five major intersections. Red and white flares flashed against the dark sky as thousands of troops marched into the city from the west.

As dawn broke, grey and cold, at least 26 tanks and 32 armored personnel carriers rumbled into Tiananmen, while helicopters buzzed the city.

The troops appeared to be hardened soldiers in their late 20s, unlike the fresh-faced recruits who had been stranded on the edge of the city. Some of them are thought to have served in Vietnam, where they earned a brutal reputation for killing civilians during the final days of the war.

Foreign correspondents, who have been forbidden to report on events in or around Tiananmen Square, dodged police.

A CBS television crew was beaten in the square, as was Jonathan Mirsky, a reporter for The Observer. Andrew Roche, a reporter for Reuter News Agency, was jumped on Saturday night by several plainclothes policemen. They beat him, blindfolded him, and threatened to kill him. However, he was released yesterday.

On last night's news, Chinese authorities called the crowds ''counterrevolutionary thugs.'' They said two soldiers were beaten to death, another died after he was doused with gasoline and set on fire, and dozens of army vehicles were destroyed. There were no reports of looting.

Sombre news anchors wore black. Their long commentaries were devoid of film footage except for a 10-second closing clip. It showed tanks rumbling over barricades, the huge, white Goddess of Democracy tumbling down and soldiers swabbing down the square.

On English-language Radio Beijing, an announcer managed to blurt out that ''thousands of innocent civilians were killed in a barbarous suppression of the people.'' The station, which is under military control, immediately reverted to the official version of events. It is not known what happened to the announcer.

Yesterday, in the neighborhoods of Beijing, people clustered in small groups. They appeared subdued and bewildered by the violence. Many just stood, seemingly numbed, in front of burned out buses and barricades.

A young man walked down a street near the square with both hands bandaged, his T-shirt splattered with blood. ''I was shot,'' he said calmly. ''My bike was crushed. I have no way to go home.'' He paused and cocked his head. ''I'm a party member. I don't know what to say about all this.''

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