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Thousands in U.S. Chip In to Keep Chinese Protest Movement Alive

June 27, 1989|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

Charlotte Lowery, an 80-year-old resident of Los Angeles, sat down one day after watching the news and scraped together $50 from her retiree's income to send to Chinese students at UCLA.

In Boston, a group of Chinese students asked Executone Telephone Systems for help in setting up a telephone and computer system. The company responded by donating $30,000 in labor and equipment.

Just last week, Meg Gresh, a mother and homemaker in Hotchkiss, Colo., population 800, started a network of donation sites throughout surrounding farming towns to help the students in China.

"This isn't a rich area, but I just felt we had to do something," Gresh said. "It's just something that hit me strongly."

'Captured Imagination'

Although more than three weeks have passed since the violent crackdown on the student movement in China began, the memory of the brutalities, sharpened by the executions of the last few days, has remained at the forefront of the American public's mind. Thousands of people from the United States and around the world have continued to respond with an outpouring of money, equipment and encouraging words to keep the Chinese pro-democracy movement alive outside China.

"This has captured (the) imagination of people on many levels," said Gordon Schultz, director of a Boston-area center that Chinese students have used as headquarters for the last few weeks. "People are deeply moved, and they've been just waiting for the opportunity to help."

Crumpled dollars bills, coins and checks for modest amounts as well as hundreds and even thousands of dollars have continued to flow to student groups in cities from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

About two dozen of these groups in the United States, most of them on college campuses, have emerged as major centers of activity and fund-raising, although no formal national organization has been formed.

In Southern California, students at UCLA, USC and Caltech have a total of about $52,000 in bank accounts. Groups at each school maintain their own funds, fed by donations collected at rallies and mailed in unsolicited by donors.

Students at Stanford University have taken a more sophisticated approach and have raised more than $80,000 with the help of advertisements in Chinese-language newspapers and three benefit concerts featuring traditional Chinese music, dance and instrumental performances. At one concert alone, the audience donated $22,000.

In New York, students standing on street corners have raised about $6,000 from people on the street, including many non-Chinese moved by the turmoil on the other side of the world.

Large companies, particularly computer firms, have donated a variety of services, something that would have been unheard of in the heady days of American student demonstrations of the 1960s.

CompuServe Inc., a computer networking company based in Columbus, Ohio, donated free computer access to students in Boston so that they could set up a news service for exchanging information about the democracy movement.

Ashton-Tate Corp., the Torrance-based computer software company, donated two copies of its $795 database program, dBase IV, to students in Boston and also contacted a computer consultant, who donated his services to customize the program for the students.

Chinese student groups in New York have been peppered with offers of free help from law firms, said Xie Wen, a student leader at Columbia University. The group received about a dozen offers before settling on the Wall Street firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of the largest firms in the country, to help with the relatively simple task of incorporating the student group.

"Right now, we don't need more lawyers," Xie said.

There is no accurate count of how much has been donated in the United States, but it certainly runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, an informal survey of the organizations showed.

Before the military crackdown, several student groups managed to send cash, camping equipment and medical supplies to the students in Tian An Men Square.

Since then, it has been virtually impossible to get anything to China, or for that matter, to find anyone willing to accept a donation, although contributions have continued to flow.

After the violence erupted in China, Alhambra High School teacher Jill Ball's English-as-a-second-language students each composed a poem and sent the poetry along with $215 they raised for a group at USC.

Meanwhile, as the aid continues, student groups have turned their attention to organizing in this country and preparing for the day when they can again help the students in China.

The money being raised now is intended to pay for establishing communication networks, documenting the history of the student movement and providing humanitarian aid in the future for people wounded in the Beijing massacre.

Most student groups have been careful in separating funds that donors specify they want used to help people in China and those that go to pay phone bills and general activities in the United States.

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