BEIJING — China moved to restrict the exit of citizens who have already received permission to travel abroad, prompting a small run on foreign embassies today by Chinese seeking visas.
Lines began forming at the U.S. Embassy here late Sunday night as word spread that the government had ordered Chinese who already have travel permits from their government to reapply for permission to leave. Many Chinese seemed to believe that obtaining a foreign visa might exempt them from the new rule.
According to state radio and television broadcasts, citizens who have received travel documents will have to go back to the office where they were issued. Diplomatic observers viewed the rule as a means of blocking the exit of student activists placed on government blacklists.
'Easier to Identify'
"By making people go back to the office where their exit permit was issued, it will be easier to identify people they don't want to leave the country," a Western diplomat said.
It was not known whether by obtaining a foreign visa, Chinese could avoid having to reapply to their own government for another exit permit. "It's not clear," said a schoolteacher from Henan province who lined up at the U.S. Embassy today. "I just don't want to take any chances."
The tightening of travel may be in hopes of reducing Western influence in the country, some foreign observers said. China's conservative Communist leaders have blamed recent student unrest partly on Western influences. The government and army cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tian An Men Square 15 days ago, leaving hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead and a wellspring of ill feelings in the capital and around the country.
Reports from the United States indicate that the hundreds of Chinese students living there may stay on rather than return home.
China continued to attack the refuge given to dissident scientist Fang Lizhi and his wife, college professor Li Shuxian, by the American Embassy here.
In a letter to the People's Daily, a government law expert declared that the asylum not only violates Chinese rules applicable to foreign diplomatic property but also international law.
The United States is "obstructing China from exercising its power of criminal jurisdiction," the letter said.
"Is this not wanton interference in China's internal affairs?" the letter concluded, in an echo of the official government complaint.
Meanwhile, China's state press reinforced reports Sunday that Politburo member Qiao Shi, a strong advocate of strict political control, is soon to be named Communist Party chief.
The lead article in Sunday's edition of the People's Daily, the official party newspaper, reported that Qiao addressed leaders of "democratic parties," which are nominal political organizations from China's past.
Such prominent display appeared to indicate that Qiao will succeed disgraced party head Zhao Ziyang, who fell from power after he showed sympathy for pro-democracy demonstrators in Tian An Men Square. Zhao, who is being blamed for "mistakenly" letting student demonstrators get out of hand, has not been heard from since April 19.
Communist Party leaders are expected to meet soon to officially remove Zhao and name Qiao as Communist Party general secretary.
Qiao, the likely new Communist Party chief, is sometimes referred to by foreign observers as "Super Cop" because he has in recent years overseen both party discipline and China's vast police force.
He is also reported to have directed the Communist Party's Investigation Department, a domestic intelligence-gathering unit.
To the democratic parties, Qiao took a conciliatory line saying that "it is very natural that people have different views and doubts," given the prevailing "complicated" situation.
During the recent months of political ferment, Qiao showed no signs of sympathy for the pro-democracy demonstrators. Nor has he displayed particular tolerance of advocates of quickened political or economic liberalization.
Western Solutions Assailed
During a speech in March, he lashed out at party members who toyed with Western-style solutions to Chinese development problems.
"If we can do well in promoting the building of the party," he said, "views and speeches which hold that reform means only economic privatization, that politically, only multi-party systems can be followed and that only wholesale Westernization can be implemented . . . will find less and less support."
In words that now have an ominous ring, he added: "Demagoguery and instigation by several dissidents who have ulterior motives can never succeed."
The statement was one of the few in memory that Qiao had made on subjects of controversy within the party. Usually, he speaks out forcefully on corruption and the need to strengthen the Communist Party.
Caution has apparently served him well; his rise to prominence has been meteoric.