China's most famous pro-democracy advocate, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, and his wife, Li Shuxian, a Beijing University physics professor, have been granted refuge inside the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. action, confirmed by officials in Washington, has prompted bitter criticism in the Chinese media.
Chinese media also have bitterly attacked the Voice of America for its reporting on the pro-democracy protests and their suppression. The New China News Agency continued these attacks with a report issued early today repeating its assertion that the U.S. government-funded station "has ceaselessly created various rumors on the student unrest, turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion" in China.
In addition to its reports showing the full force of China's security apparatus employed against the dissidents, the television news has been filled with reports praising the soldiers who imposed martial law on Beijing against the resistance of huge crowds.
A spokesman for the Chinese Red Cross, which had displayed considerable sympathy for the student protesters, had initially reported 2,600 deaths in the June 3-4 massacre.
The government, for its part, at first said that only about 300 people had died, then reduced the official figure Wednesday to about 200. Under martial law regulations in Beijing, it now is an illegal act of "spreading rumors" for Chinese citizens to say that more people died.
Red Cross Retracts Figure
The Chinese Red Cross issued a statement Thursday retracting its previous figure, which had been issued orally to reporters.
"The Red Cross Society of China has never published any figures about the deaths in the June 4 incident in Beijing," a spokesman told the New China News Agency.
The news agency also referred to reports that a senior official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry recently cited the 2,600 figure and attributing it to the Chinese Red Cross. The Red Cross spokesman said Thursday that this figure "does not conform to reality and is sheer fabrication," the news agency said.
Gruesome scenes were broadcast Thursday of soldiers using shovels to remove the charred remains of six soldiers who were killed by crowds that blocked their truck during the night of June 3.
Infuriated crowds did kill some soldiers and police officers--nearly 100 by official count--while resisting the army's advance. Some corpses were doused with gasoline and set afire. In one incident, the charred body of a soldier was hung from a pedestrian overpass.
Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong was shown on television Thursday offering words of comfort to the mother of this soldier.
"Your child is very glorious," Chen said. "Thank you for having such a good son who died for the defense of the Communist Party leadership, the motherland and the capital."
Schoenberger reported from Shanghai and Holley from Beijing.