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Firing Convoys Roam Beijing : More Tanks Are Sent Into Square

June 05, 1989|JIM MANN and DANIEL WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writers

BEIJING — A new wave of fear swept Beijing today as military convoys rumbled through the Chinese capital, firing repeatedly into the air and sometimes at pedestrians, while more armor was sent to reinforce the army's hold on Tian An Men Square.

About 400 tanks, armored vehicles, troop and munition trucks moved into the square early today following a second day of bloodshed in central Beijing, while other convoys roamed the city around noon.

Gunfire rocked the city's embassy section at about 1 p.m. as troops moved north past the compound housing the American ambassador's residence and the press and cultural section of the U.S. Embassy.

During periodic skirmishes near Tian An Men Square and at key intersections Sunday, Chinese troops fired on unarmed residents for the second day and, according to hospital and witness reports, killed scores more people who, seemingly oblivious to the danger, had approached the soldiers.

Hundreds of people were reported killed and many more wounded Saturday night and early Sunday as the government ordered the People's Liberation Army to crush the student-led pro-democracy protest movement that had occupied the square for weeks.

An exact toll of the casualties in the two days of violence could not be ascertained. The latest estimates, by local medical and diplomatic spokesmen, of the dead in the army's seizure of the square range from 200 to more than 1,000. Japan's Kyodo News Service, quoting Red Cross sources, put the total at 2,600 dead and 10,000 wounded.

Various military convoys were moving through the city around noon.

Shooting Near Embassy

"They're shooting right outside my office!" U.S. Embassy spokesman Andy Koss suddenly shouted in the midst of an early afternoon telephone interview. "They're army trucks. They're heading north on the road next to my office. Oh goddam it! It's unbelievable. They've got guns ready, they're shooting up into the air."

Before the troops drove by, Koss said the U.S. Embassy was sending officials to Beijing area universities this afternoon "to make contact with American students and see what the situation is."

Other embassies had already begun evacuating their nationals from university campuses to safer locations in Beijing.

Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong said on the radio this morning that 1,000 troops were injured during Sunday's violence, in incidents he called "unprecedented" in the 40 years of Communist rule in China.

As the additional tanks and armored personnel carriers were sent to the square between midnight and dawn today, Beijing residents lying in ambush hurled half a dozen firebombs at them near the intersection of Changan Avenue and Dongdan Street. During one ambush at about 3 a.m., an armored personnel carrier briefly caught fire, but soldiers rushed to douse the flames.

There was also sporadic firing during the night around Beijing where people had set up little barricades of vegetable stalls and debris. Crude barriers put up by citizens this morning along Changan Avenue seemed inadequate to stop troop trucks and tanks: An army jeep easily circumvented one of them.

As the death toll mounted, individual citizens continued to display extraordinary physical bravery in acts of defiance.

Man Stops Tanks

A column of 10 tanks and 10 armored personnel carriers that headed east out of Tian An Men Square around noon was stopped by a single man who stood in front of the lead tank, according to a Western witness. He climbed up on the tank, talked with someone inside, then climbed down and walked away alive.

The column continued on its way, firing randomly. It could not be determined whether the shots were going in the air or toward the sidewalk, but about 100 bicyclists followed along beside and behind the convoy.

About an hour later, 90 troop trucks and an equal number of support vehicles rolled past the Beijing Hotel, a famous tourist and business center, and into the square, the witness said. Troops were firing into the air, and some bullets hit the hotel.

Soldiers Surrounded

Late Monday morning, a crowd stood surrounding soldiers at the Jianguomen Bridge, where some people have been shot to death.

"Running dogs!" screamed a woman standing no more than 50 feet from soldiers armed with automatic weapons.

Beginning around 1 p.m., gunfire was heard near the bridge. It was not immediately known whether people were injured or killed, but shortly after 1:30 p.m., an army truck was set on fire on the main highway near the bridge, and ammunition on the truck could be heard exploding.

A witness said the truck had broken down and been left behind when a convoy of about 100 vehicles passed by. Someone took a crowbar, forced open the gas tank and dropped in the burning stuffing from a captured helmet.

Protesters then moved on to at least seven other nearby abandoned army trucks and methodically set them on fire.

Gunfire Continuing

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