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China takes steps to control news media, protesters

By MARK S. DEL VECCHIO

BEIJING, June 2, 1989 (UPI) - The government, in a bid to assert its authority, has declared a virtual blackout on foreign news coverage of the pro-democracy protests and stepped up displays of its military might.

Beijing Municipal Government spokesman Ding Weijin announced the new rules at a Foreign Ministry press briefing Thursday, warning that city officials can determine violations under the unenforced martial law decree and set penalties ''in light of the seriousness of the individual case.''

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The restrictions were among the latest signs the government was moving to execute a May 20 martial law decree in Beijing announced by conservative Premier Li Peng after students demanding greater freedom occupied central Tiananmen Square, sparking nationwide demonstrations by sympathizers.

About 2,000 students and onlookers staged a boisterous sit-in early Friday outside Beijing police headquarters east of the square after reports circulated that police had beaten several students nearby. The claims could not be confirmed.

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Tens of thousands of civilians prevented troops from moving into the city and the decree has been ignored in the capital. Students have continued demonstrations demanding Li's resignation in full view of the world media.

The inability to enforce the decree has led to public ridicule of Li and fueled belief that China's leadership has been badly impaired by an internal power struggle sparked by disagreements over dealing with the nation's worst anti-government unrest in almost 40 years of communist rule.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Li Jinhua, at a regular briefing, denied reports conservatives grouped around paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and Li had purged Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who leads a moderate grouping.

''There are no changes in the positions of leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, government, army and the standing committee of the National People's Congress,'' she said.

The Communist Party's official organ, the People's Daily, confirmed witness accounts that soldiers, some in civilian clothing, had quietly moved into key facilities in the capital to assert martial law.

As many as 200,000 troops from at least 10 of China's 30 armies have encamped on the city's outskirts since the night of May 19, when an initial advance by troop convoys into the capital was blocked by citizens' barricades.

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The newspaper said troops had been stationed in ''more than 10 major targets,'' including the international airport, the main rail station and communications facilities. Soldiers were already in television and radio centers and at major state-run newspapers.

The evening news on state-run television showed hundreds of troops staging highly disciplined marching and running drills in public outside the main rail station, less than a mile from Tiananmen Square.

The news also broadcast recordings of a second day of pro-government rallies organized in three suburban townships and meetings of officials and workers in a number of provinces intended to rebuild popular faith in Li's government.

In the northern suburb of Changping, several thousand people tried to stage a pro-government rally at a sports stadium but about 200 students and crowds of residents packed around the entry gate and disrupted the gathering, foreign witnesses said.

''Dump Li Peng,'' chanted the anti-government protesters, who scuffled briefly with the government supporters as they tried to march out of the arena, the witnesses said. There were no injuries reported.

The new regulations on foreign correspondents broadened restrictions imposed when Li declared martial law and reflected growing official embarrassment over international coverage of China's political crisis in defiance of the original rules.

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Ding said that during martial law, coverage by foreign news organizations and reporters from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao of events in areas under the decree is ''subject to prior application for the approval'' by the Beijing administration.

He also said the new restrictions included a prohibition on discussing banned activities at any location with Chinese and writing about or photographing martial law troops without permission.

The original martial law orders outlawed involvement in activities violating the decree and barred reporters from government offices, factories, schools and neighborhoods without permission.

The new rules prompted the Foreign Correspondents Club of Beijing to issue a protest note that requested they be withdrawn because they ''are obviously designed to curtail our normal and legitimate journalistic activities.''

The government's efforts to reassert its authority, however, had no impact at Tiananmen Square, where students continued their sit-in alongside a 30-foot-high Statue of Liberty lookalike dubbed ''The Spirit of Democracy'' erected opposite a massive portrait of Mao Tse-tung.

Thousands of onlookers thronged the plaza throughout the day, many bringing their children to celebrate International Children's Day, which the government normally observes with a rally in the square.

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