‘By ordering soldiers to fire on the unarmed crowds, the Chinese leadership has created an incident that almost surely will haunt the Government for years to come.’
BEIJING, Monday, June 5, 1989 — Army units tightened their hold on the center of the Chinese capital on Sunday, moving in large convoys on some of the main thoroughfares and firing indiscriminately at crowds as outraged citizens continued to attack and burn army vehicles.
It was clear that at least 300 people had been killed since the troops first opened fire shortly after midnight on Sunday morning but the toll may be much higher. Word-of-mouth estimates countinued to soar, some reaching far into the thousands. Outbreaks of firing continued today, as more convoys of troops moved through the city.
The bloodshed stunned Beijing and seemed to traumatize its citizens. Normal life halted as armored personnel carriers and troop trucks rumbled along debris-filled roads, with soldiers firing their automatic weapons in every direction. Smoke filled the sky as workers and students vented frustration and outrage by burning army vehicles wherever they found them separated from major convoys,in side streets or at intersections. Square Is Sealed Off
The area around central Tiananmen Square was completely sealed by troops who periodically responded with bursts of automatic-weapons fire whenever crowds drew close to the square.
By ordering soldiers to fire on the unarmed crowds, the Chinese leadership has created an incident that almost surely will haunt the Government for years to come. It is believed here that after the bloodshed of this weekend, it will be incomparably more difficult to rule China.
Many fewer people than normal were in the streets Sunday and today, and some of them ended up in the hospitals or in the morgues. The number of casualties may never be known, because the Government has asked hospitals not to report any numbers on deaths or injuries. However, based on accounts pieced together from doctors at several hospitals, it seems that at least 200 died in the hospitals and that many other corpses were probably left in the hands of the military. Saving the Living
”We had to concentrate on those who were still living,” one doctor said today. ”We had to leave behind most of those who already were dead.”
When troops finally seized Tiananmen Square early Sunday morning, they allowed the student occupiers who held on to the center of the square for three weeks to leave and then sent tanks to run over the tents and makeshift encampment that demonstrators had set up. Unconfirmed reports rapidly spread that some students had remained in the tents and were crushed to death.
The troops sealed off Tiananmen Square and started a huge bonfire. Many Beijing residents drew the conclusion, again impossible to verify, that the soldiers cremated corpses to destroy the evidence. A Higher Estimate
The student organization that coordinated the long protests continued to function and announced today that 2,600 students were believed to have been killed. Several doctors said that, based on their discussions with ambulance drivers and colleagues who had been on Tiananmen Square, they estimated that at least 2,000 had died. But some of these estimates, based principally on antipathy for the Government, appeared to be high.
Soldiers also beat and bayonetted students and workers after daybreak on Sunday, witnesses said, usually after some provocation but sometimes entirely at random.
”I saw a young woman tell the soldiers that they are the people’s army, and that they mustn’t hurt the people,” a young doctor said after returning from one clash Sunday. ”Then the soldiers shot her, and ran up and bayonetted her. I ran away, so I couldn’t tell if she lived or died.”
News of the killings quickly spread to other parts of China, principally by radio reports from the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Chinese-language broadcasts have been jammed recently, but not on all frequencies.
In Shanghai, some supporters of the democracy movement reacted to the killings in Beijing by going on strike, a diplomat there said in a telephone interview. However, few factories are open on Sundays, so the real test of a strike will come today, and many people doubt that a strike will be successful because of a lack of organization among workers. Strike Possibility
In addition, Shanghai residents expressed protest by erecting barricades throughout the city to block traffic.
In northeastern China, small demonstrations to protest the killings in Beijing were held in Shenyang, Dalian and Changchun. However, in those areas there has not been much talk of a general strike, a diplomat said.
Huge convoys of scores of army vehicles, led by tanks, continued to roll through the main roads of Beijing this morning and early afternoon, skirting trucks that had been set on fire by civilians with molotov cocktails. Troops in the vehicles fired their submachine guns constantly, mostly in the air. However, some casualties were reported.
Troops still fired periodically when clusters of people gathered near the Beijing Hotel, and several people were reported killed and injured. Among them was a middle-aged Western man was hit in the leg and stomach, according to a witness. He could not be immediately identified and his condition was not known … (read more)