BEIJING — China executed three protesters in public today and up to 17 others were condemned to die for their roles in student-led demonstrations that challenged the power of the Communist Party.
The executions of the three Shanghai men were carried out hours after futile appeals for clemency by President Bush and other Western leaders.
The Shanghai workers were convicted of setting a train on fire on June 6 after it plowed into a barricade set up by protesters, killing six people.
They were shot to death in front of a crowd just 2 1/2 hours after Shanghai's highest court rejected their appeals, a spokesman at the city's Foreign Affairs Office said.
Other Nations Revolted
Washington called the executions regrettable but said it planned no further sanctions, while other Western nations expressed revulsion.
"We deeply regret the fact that these executions have gone forward," Secretary of State James A. Baker III said in the first official U.S. reaction.
But Baker, speaking outside the White House, added: "The United States is not contemplating any additional action at this time" because President Bush believes that the U.S. sanctions taken thus far have been "appropriate."
Reaction elsewhere in the West was less measured.
West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said the executions filled him with "abhorrence, bitterness and deep sadness." In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she was "utterly appalled."
France, Spain and the Netherlands said the European Community will take up the question of its relations with Beijing at next week's EC summit in Madrid.
French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said links with Beijing will be reviewed after the "atrocious" executions.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hans Van den Broek said: "This new, sad development can only lead to a further deterioration of relations."
Chinese Premier Li Peng denounced the foreign criticism.
He told visiting Foreign Secretary Humayun Khan of Pakistan that most of the millions of Chinese who took part nationwide in marches, sit-ins and hunger strikes for a freer society will be treated leniently "even if they had extremist opinions."
But Li said, "The tiny minority of criminals will be punished according to the law."
Army Fired on Students
The meeting was the first top-level contact with a foreign delegation since the crackdown began June 3-4, when the army fired on students and supporters in Beijing to end their pro-democracy demonstrations.
In addition to those sentenced to death today, 11--including the three executed--were condemned previously.
Beijing radio said 45 people who "seriously endangered public order" were tried in front of an audience of 10,000 people in Jinan in eastern China's Shandong province.
It did not give details of their alleged crimes, but said some were given the death penalty.