Travel, Communications Between US, China
THE following may be of some help to people with friends or relatives in the People's Republic of China, as well as to those who may have planned trips to that country. The US State Department emergency phone number for information on the situation in China is 1-202-647-0562. It is operated 24 hours a day by 35 specialists. Transportation:
Northwest Airlines flies Tuesdays and Thursdays with 747 service to and from Shanghai. The airline reports it still has seats available for its next flight on Tuesday. United Airlines flies three flights per week with service out of Beijing. According to a spokesman, seats are still available. Both airlines have rescheduled the flights to land and take off during the day. According to the State Department there are about 1,400 Americans in Beijing and 8,800 in the rest of China. The State Department had arranged for United and Continental Airlines to provide two aircraft with a combined capacity of 684 seats to pickup 258 dependents of US Embassy personnel yesterday and any other US citizens trying to leave China. The State Department reports it is still trying to arrange more charters.
Both MCI and AT&T report very heavy calling to China resulting in delays. MCI uses the AT&T network to send its signals which are bounced off a satellite owned by Intelsat. Chinese students have established an informal fax network, which telephone executives say continues to operate.
An AT&T spokesman recommends dialing directly, making calls in the afternoon (early morning in China), limiting calls to emergency cases, keeping calls short, and sharing information with relatives and friends. Calls from China to the US are getting through without problem. Rick Wallerstein, an AT&T spokesman, says the Chinese Ministry of Post and Telecommunications is working with the company to ensure phone service operates uninterrupted. Both services report delays to Hong Kong.
The State Department advises Americans not to travel to China. Almost all tour groups have canceled their trips to China and are offering refunds. Pacific Delight, the largest operator of tours to China, has canceled all tours through June 15 and is refunding all money to customers who wish to cancel tours through the end of July. American Express has canceled all tours through the end of August and is offering full refunds. American Express will also waive all cancellation penalties for any China tour booked in 1989.
The US is trying to evacuate the approximate 360 students studying in China. About 200 US colleges and universities have exchange programs with Chinese universities. The short-term future of these exchanges remains in doubt.
Robert Geyer with the China Committee of the National Academy of Sciences says his organization has suspended activities with China until ``there is a return to a peaceful means of resolving issues in China.'' Although Mr. Geyer still contemplates sending academics over for the 1989-90 school year, beginning in September, he says he is not optimistic. The academy is trying to get its 35 to 40 scholars back to the US.
President Bush has extended for one year the visas for Chinese nationals who wish to remain in the country, as well as visas for Chinese students in the US. Geyer estimates there are 36,000 to 38,000 Chinese students in the US.
The Chinese are jamming Chinese-language broadcasts by the Voice of America. English-language broadcasts are still being picked up in China. Cable News Network reports the major Western hotels are still picking up its broadcasts. Normally, there are about 40 US correspondents in China. However, the State Department says many more arrived for the Gorbachev visit and remained there, so it has no estimate of the current number.