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State Department Softens Warning on China Visits

May 23, 1999|EDWARD WRIGHT | Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly


The accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, which killed three Chinese citizens May 8, touched off a wave of anti-American demonstrations, some of them violent, throughout China and parts of Asia. The State Department issued a fresh worldwide warning to Americans about the possibility of retaliation over the bombing of Yugoslavia and advised Americans in China to be extremely careful.

Among the developments:

China: Thousands of Chinese, many of them bused in by the government, demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for several days, breaking windows, starting small fires and keeping the U.S. ambassador and his staff virtual hostages inside. Violent protests were held in other Chinese cities; in Chengdu the U.S. Consulate was set ablaze. For four days a State Department warning urged U.S. citizens to defer traveling there.

On May 13 the warning was lifted, but the department advised Americans to be very security-conscious in China, noting that "the potential exists for further violent acts" against U.S. interests there.

Asia: In China's archrival Taiwan, more than 100 demonstrators threw paint and eggs at the unofficial U.S. mission, burned American flags and shouted anti-American slogans. In Islamabad, Pakistani riot police used tear gas to block about 150 Chinese from marching on the U.S. Embassy. In Tokyo, demonstrators waved Chinese flags and signs saying, "NATO Is Killer."


Jamaica: Three days of island-wide rioting last month left nine people dead, damaged millions of dollars' worth of property and cast a cloud over tourism. The riots began April 16, touched off by a steep government-decreed increase in gasoline prices. At the height of the violence, businesses in Kingston, the capital, were shut down by gunfire, looting and flaming roadblocks. Looting also was reported around the northern resort of Montego Bay


Greece: After the April 27 bombing of the Inter-Continental Hotel in Athens, which killed one person, the State Department reminded Americans that several terrorist groups have at times targeted U.S. government and business sites in Greece and said the hotel bombing "may represent an increased potential for violence." Stressing that "this is not a warning to defer travel to Greece," the department said it knows of no specific threats against Americans there, but that security at all U.S. government sites in the country has been tightened. In March, a bomb caused extensive damage to a branch of the American banking firm Citibank in Athens.

Hot spots: State Department travel warnings are posted for Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo (formerly Zaire), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Montserrat, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Rwanda, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000. Internet address is

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