China's Students Renew Protests
Rallies held on Tiananmen anniversary
BRAVELY defying iron-fisted repression, more than 1,000 university students on Monday revived the call for democracy that hundreds of protesters died for in the Beijing massacre a year ago. The student outburst was the first major antigovernment demonstration since troops and tanks swept into Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989.
Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States, and other countries joined the Beijing students in denouncing the killings. In Hong Kong, which will revert to Chinese control in 1997, more than 100,000 people marched shouting ``We won't forget June 4.''
Students rallying at Beijing University on Monday said they wanted to shatter any illusions of hard-line Communist Party leaders about the depth of discontent with the regime.
``[Premier] Li Peng won't sleep well tonight,'' one physics graduate student laughed above the din of shouting and bottles splintering beneath dormitory windows.
In the language of Chinese politics, the smashing bottles was itself an attack on patriarch Deng Xiaoping, whose name rhymes with ``small bottle.''
``Every student is like a volcano, ready to explode,'' a graduate student of international politics told a Monitor correspondent, who witnessed the protest on the northwestern Beijing campus.
``We are not afraid,'' said the student, who was in Tiananmen Square during last year's massacre. ``People have a right to express their aspirations for freedom.''
The protest came despite the presence of thousands of helmeted paramilitary police and troops patrolling the Chinese capital in convoys.
In the heaviest security since Beijing lifted martial law in January, armed forces on 24-hour alert enforced a tense calm over the city.
After dark, police with pistols and truncheons manned checkpoints at all main intersections around Tiananmen Square, stopping Chinese and foreigners and inspecting vehicles and identification cards.
By day, police made spot checks of the bags and ID cards of Chinese walking and bicycling near the square. The giant plaza was cordoned off June 3-4 for official ceremonies, one marking the 150th anniversary of the Sino-British Opium War.
Some foreign journalists and tourists were briefly detained by police, who confiscated the videotape of at least one American tourist.
At Beijing University, students were barred from taking their protest beyond campus walls, as armed police circled the university and authorities sealed off all the gates.
``I saw police with guns go around the campus shouting `If you can get out, we'll shoot you,''' said one male undergraduate, requesting anonymity.
The spontaneous rally began at about 11 p.m. Sunday, near the time that Chinese troops and tanks entering Beijing last year opened fire on the western outskirts of Muxudi, one of the bloodiest points of the massacre.
Graduate students smashed bottles, shouted, blew whistles, and burned newspapers in an act of mourning for those killed during last year's military rampage. In school dormitory windows, the flames of candles flickered brightly in commemoration of the dead.
As the protest mounted, undergraduates spilled out of dormitories and joined a growing procession of students clapping and singing the ``Internationale,'' the anthem of last spring's democracy movement.
The raucous crowd booed and hissed at agitated school officials, drowning out the warning of Lin Yanzhi, deputy of the university party committee, that they would face ``severe punishment.''
Instead, with impassioned voices, the students denounced the Communist regime as a dictatorship and declared that one day they will win freedom and democracy.
``Last year, disaster struck not only the students, but the entire nation,'' began Li Mingqi in a speech before a hushed crowd of hundreds of students squatting and perched on a wall for posters in the center of campus.
``Socialism in China is a cruel dictatorship,'' said Li, a slight, 21-year-old junior majoring in economics. The country needs political reform and real supervision by the National People's Congress, China's parliament, he said.
``What can we do to make the government accept our demands?'' he asked the crowd gathered under a circle of yellow lamplight.
Two school authorities at that point broke in and apprehended Li, drawing an angry reaction from the crowd. After a long standoff, Li was hustled away and the crowd dispersed peacefully shortly after 2:00 a.m.
At least six Chinese, including Li, were reportedly detained for separate acts of peaceful protest during the anniversary. One man was dragged off after he unfurled a cloth banner announcing ``a new philosophy'' before a Canadian television crew.
Although some Beijing University students expressed a desire to continue protesting, others said that the lack of student organizers and tight official controls would inhibit the emergence of a new political movement.
Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with the hard-line regime remains intense and widespread.
``Socialism has failed,'' said the physics graduate student, sitting on a bunk bed in his disheveled dorm room. While the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries are adopting radical democratic and market reforms, China is lagging behind, he said to the nods of his roommates.
``If we keep socialism, we'll only grope ahead slowly,'' he added.