Chinese troops take Tiananmen Square


BEIJING, June 3, 1989 (UPI) - Troops backed by tanks and armored cars fought pitched battles with thousands of civilians Saturday and Sunday as a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement exploded into a city-wide insurrection, leaving more than 176 people dead and 464 injured, witnesses and hospital officials said.

A gray, smoke-filled dawn broke Sunday over the blood-covered streets of the city of 10 million while the military continued pouring soldiers, trucks and armored vehicles mounted with machine guns into the center of Beijing.


Intermittent bursts of gunfire persisted and military helicopters circled the city convulsed by its worst violence since World War II.

At about 5 a.m. Sunday, after hours of mayhem, a massive force of soldiers, tanks and riot police wrested control of Tiananmen Square from thousands of students who had occupied the political heart of the capital since May 13 to press demands for greater freedom.


American CBS correspondent Richard Roth and his camera crew were beaten and dragged off by soldiers near the square during a live sound feed to the United States over a cellular telephone, said John Sheahan, the television network's Beijing bureau chief.

Accounts from witnesses across the city and United Press International correspondents indicated numerous casualties in street battles that erupted as thousands of troops moved to end the Tiananmen Square occupation and enforce a May 20 martial law declaration by Premier Li Peng.

Witnesses and hospitals reported at least 176 people were killed in the fighting, including at least three security personnel. Hospitals said at least 464 people were wounded.

The casualty toll in the overnight clashes between troops using modern weapons and citizens wielding rocks, bricks, iron rods, wooden clubs and bare fists was expected to soar.

Students and civilians who survived gunfire and harsh beatings walked slowly out of the square, crying and singing the ''Internationale,'' the anthem of world communism they adopted during their protests.

Five armored personnel carriers roared across the plaza, flattening the squalid encampment of tents and makeshift shelters in which the students lived and around which tens of thousands of citizens rallied almost daily to support unprecedented protests against the communist government.


The sit-in provoked millions of sympathizers to take to the streets in cities across the country and triggered a power struggle within the communist hierarchy over how to deal with its most serious political crisis in nearly 40 years of rule.

Despite the military crackdown, tens of thousands of civilians remained in roads around the city choked by flaming military vehicles and buses, many of the people shouting defiantly for the ouster of the government and running for cover as army convoys roared by.

Officials and staff at 10 city hospitals reported at least 156 deaths and said 464 others were treated for injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to cuts and bruises from beatings. Other hospitals said they had casualties, but were either too busy or too frightened to reveal the numbers.

At another facility, Shuili Hospital, a foreign correspondent was led by workers to a room where 10 bodies lay on the bloody floor.

Witnesses reported seeing dozens of three-wheeled bicycle carts following in the wake of screaming ambulances, carrying an unknown number of casualties and counted at least seven dead bodies.

At least three security personnel were killed.

One died in a fierce battle between 1,000 police and thousands of citizens outside the Minzu Hotel. The second died falling from a truck hit by a tank barging through a barricade of some 15,000 civilians. The third soldier was burned to death by a crowd in a street south of Tiananmen Square.


The Beijing Government Martial Law Headquarters went on local television at 2:45 a.m. Sunday, announcing ''a serious counter-revolutionary rebellion'' by ''thugs'' who attacked the army ''in an attempt to overthrow the government of the People's Republic of China and socialism.''

It said the army ''now must resolutely counteract the rebellion. All those who refuse to listen to reason must take full responsibility for their actions and their consequences.''

A news reporter for the station said thousands of armed police and soldiers had been injured and an unspecified number killed.

The crackdown began in earnest shortly before midnight Saturday, with armored personnel vehicles barreling through streets clogged with hundreds of thousands of people and makeshift barricades set up after initial troop movements and violent confrontations throughout the afternoon and evening.

Soldiers shot indiscriminately and loosed flame-throwers, setting trees ablaze along the Avenue of Eternal Peace as they converged from several points on the downtown area, battling through crowds.

In the city's south, a witness said soldiers wielding bayonet-fixed rifles charged thousands of citizens blocking streets. From the west, 70 armored personnel carriers, more than 100 troop trucks and as many as 10,000 foot soldiers moved straight for the square.

Screams pierced the night as citizens armed with rocks and sticks fought the tide of steel-helmeted troops, but were forced to flee before a hail of automatic weapons fire and volleys of tear gas.


Troops and protesters also fought on the doorstep of Zhongnanhai, the walled sanctuary of China's embattled and feud-riven communist leadership, where citizens stoked flaming barricades and torched at least one vehicle.

But the troops rolled on toward the square.

A solitary student stood and flung a javelin at them, only to be gunned down in the avenue.

At Tiananmen Square, tens of thousands of protesters, some hurling gasoline bombs, set fire to barricades and an armored personnel carrier and used crowbars to dismantle a second armored car as gunfire echoed from the south.

Crowds battling troops coming from the east torched the nearby Ministry of Public Security Building and the Tiananmen viewing stands, where just weeks ago Beijing citizens cheered a huge pro-democracy march.

The column reached the square and opened fired from its northern border, sparking a stampede of people. Many fell. Others retreated into the heart of the square and gathered around the Monument to the People's Heroes, a towering stone obelisk.

At one point early Sunday, more than 5,000 soldiers marched from the south into the square but retreated after the enraged crowd brandished wooden clubs and metal pipes, many screaming, ''You are the people's army and we are the people.''


Then, about 4 a.m., authorities turned off lights in the square. Soldiers toting 30-round T-56 assault rifles emerged from the adjacent Great Hall of the People, the seat of the parliament, and massed on the front steps.

Some 50,000 people poured in from side streets and joined in singing the ''Internationale'' as it was played by students over a public address system.

About 5 a.m., riot police swirling batons and soldiers moved in, beating members of the crowd and forcing them to flee.

''They beat us without mercy,'' said Wang Ling, 22, a student at the Chinese Institute of Politics and Law.

The military then rushed in reinforcements, more than 10 tanks and dozens of armored personnel carriers.

''They must be moved from Tiananmen Square,'' senior leader Deng Xiaoping was quoted as saying in a memo distributed earlier to Communist Party and government officials.

Chinese sources said the 84-year-old Deng declared authorities could not back down from a fiery April 26 editorial in the Communist Party organ People's Daily accusing students of trying to overthrow the government.

Conservative Premier Li, who declared martial law and whose ouster the students have demanded, appeared Saturday for the first time in nine days on television, discussing world ecological problems.


Citizens previously had managed to keep the military outside the city after turning back troop advances the night of May 19.

In the first sign of a crackdown since that incident, thousands of soldiers in civilian clothes marched toward the square overnight Friday.

Although support for the protest movement had withered since the standoff a week ago, tens of thousands of people rallied again to block troops with makeshift barricades.

Those troops, though armed with rifles and grenades, were mostly teenagers, many of whom burst into tears as they were surrounded and heckled.

''You call yourself soldiers?'' one elderly man screamed. ''Who do you think you're coming to fight, the Japanese? These are your own people! Don't be Li Peng's pawns!''

Weeks earlier, such calls sparked the dry tinder of public dissatisfaction with rampant official corruption, the highest inflation since the nation was founded in 1949 and impatience with an aging leadership that has refused to implement political reforms to match the pace of decade-old economic change.

Students had vowed to continue their occupation until June 20, when the ruling body of China's parliament meets. They hoped the nominal legislature would use its constitutional power to remove Li.

Li was believed to be bolstering his position, however, and the reformist Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang was expected to be purged.


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