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Turmoil In China : The Struggle for Power : Arrest of Dissident in U.S. Embassy Is Sought by China

June 12, 1989|DAVID HOLLEY and DANIEL WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writers

A prominent China-watcher in the United States, A. Doak Barnett of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, said Sunday that the arrest warrant for Fang significantly raises the risk of a serious China-U.S. diplomatic rift.

No Compromise Seen

"I don't see, once having given him refuge, that the U.S. government is likely to negotiate some sort of turnover. The Chinese, too, have taken a hard position that reduces the chance they would accept any compromise exit. It seems to me we're in a stalemate and I don't know how it's going to come out," Barnett said.

Diplomats from European and Asian countries who spoke with reporters in Beijing indicated that the confrontation over Fang could escalate into a serious crisis with profound effects on U.S.-China relations.

A variety of scenarios seem possible in the days or weeks ahead: a battle confined to words and diplomatic maneuvers, the eruption of Chinese government-instigated demonstrations outside the embassy, harassment of U.S. diplomats or other Americans in China, an actual physical attack on the embassy, or a standoff in which Fang and Li would become long-term embassy residents.

"If the Chinese are foolish enough to try and use force to bring Fang and his wife out then it would be disastrous for relations with the United States," an Asian diplomat commented to Reuters news agency.

The U.S. Embassy has urged all American citizens, except for embassy staff, to leave China.

Dependents Already Evacuated

Dependents of U.S. diplomatic personnel were evacuated last week after martial-law troops sprayed several high-rise apartment buildings in the capital's largest foreign residential compound with dozens of rounds of automatic weapons fire. Authorities later said the troops believed they were being fired on by a sniper. It still is not clear whether a sniper really existed. There were no injuries in the incident.

A U.S. Embassy official who spoke with the Associated Press on Sunday said there is no indication that the Chinese are giving any consideration to entering the embassy to seize Fang and Li.

"That would be a very serious violation of the Geneva Convention," the official said, speaking on condition that his name not be used.

The official said that some Chinese students who took part in the pro-democracy protests that led to the crackdown had called the embassy to inquire about receiving shelter but that none had come.

"Basically the ambassador is saying we'll examine different cases as they come up," he added. "We're not putting out the welcome mat."

Unable to Do More

The official also pointed out that the embassy is unable to do more than provide physical protection within the U.S. compound.

"Obviously we can't give anybody asylum (in the United States) because you can't get anyone out of the country," he said.

A spokesman at the embassy called Fang's presence "temporary refuge."

It is unclear what fate may await Ren, 44, the former political prisoner arrested by Chinese authorities Saturday. After initially keeping a low profile after his 1983 release from prison, Ren, who works as an accountant, has over the past year been among the boldest dissidents in China. He has given interviews to Western reporters and released essays for publication. He did not play a major role in the recent student protests, but on one occasion he appeared at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tian An Men Square and spoke to a crowd there.

Police Came to Their Home

Ren's wife passed word through an American television reporter on Sunday that half a dozen plainclothes police came to their home the previous evening with a search warrant--but no arrest warrant--and took Ren away, saying that they wanted to "discuss problems" with him. The police also confiscated magazines and copies of articles Ren had written, she said.

"He said at the time, before he was taken out, 'Everything I have done is within the bounds of the constitution. I am at total peace with myself, and would never run and hide.' "

Ren's wife said her only concern is "for the safety of my husband, myself and our 12-year-old daughter."

"All he did is write about the government's past mistakes," she said.

A general crackdown on suspected anti-government demonstrators accelerated in cities across China.

In the northeastern city of Changchun, authorities paraded at least two dozen detainees in front of a mass rally. In the ancient central China city of Xian, the government outlawed possession of "reactionary" pamphlets, photographs and other printed material.

Verbal Attacks

Chinese television also continued its verbal attacks Sunday on the Voice of America, accusing it of spreading falsehoods and sympathizing with protesters. The Chinese media portray the protests as a violent, unconstitutional "counterrevolutionary rebellion." Angry crowds destroyed military vehicles in response to the killings, but the media have portrayed the events in reverse, as if the military crackdown was a response to violent rioting.

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