Chinese troops turned back in advance on Tiananmen Square


BEIJING, June 3, 1989 (UPI) - Thousands of riot-equipped troops marched on Beijing's main square early Saturday as pro-democracy students continued their occupation, but students and citizens swarmed into the streets and blocked the advance with barricades and their bodies, witnesses said.

The troops appeared to be either from the Chinese People's Liberation Army or a paramilitary force. They moved toward Tiananmen Square from the east, west and south, but the intent of the advance was not immediately clear.


Although most of the troops did not appear to be armed, thousands of people massed around an army truck and buses near the Minzu Hotel on the west side, hauled several soldiers out and discovered automatic weapons and clubs inside the vehicles, an American television crew reported from the scene.

People clambered atop a bus, brandishing the clubs as evidence, the witnesses said. More troops were seen advancing behind the vehicles, some wearing what appeared to be tear-gas masks.


Scuffling broke out near the Beijing Hotel just east of the square as a long column of soldiers tried to advance but was blocked by thousands of students and citizens who massed on Changan Avenue. The protesters turned a water truck and a bus across the street as a barricade.

A United Press International reporter observed the soldiers, moving on foot, stream around the vehicles, but the troops were met with pushing and shoving by citizens and students and turned back. No serious violence was reported.

''The government is corrupt and trying to suppress the people,'' a middle-aged man shouted at the soldiers, some of whom appeared near tears.

Citizens' anger appeared to have been fueled by an unrelated traffic accident on the west side of the square Friday night in which witnesses said a police jeep struck several bicyclists, killing one and injuring three. Large crowds had been moving around the square to protest the incident.

In the square, students broadcast an announcement early Satuday over a public address system warning civilians to vacate the plaza. Several thousand fled by bicycle, leaving behind the tent city around a monument where students have spent the past two weeks.

Fewer than 10,000 students remained in the squatter encampment, set up during six weeks of protests that have included the biggest anti-government demonstrations in China since the founding of the communist nation in 1949.


Thousands of the students streamed out of the square to set up blockades when the troop movement was reported. Others huddled around their tents, chatting and waiting in an atmosphere of tense calm as the loudspeaker blared the ''Internationale,'' the world socialist anthem adopted by student leaders of protests calling for democratic reforms.

Troops were first sighted around 1:45 a.m. making their way on foot toward the square from several directions. Crowds of people lined the streets, yelling at the soldiers as they marched in columns that filled entire lanes of main roads.

''Those are our children,'' screamed a middle-aged woman. ''Help them, help them.''

The column that stalled near the Beijing Hotel comprised at least 3,000 soldiers who marched double-time, apparently for miles, from the city's east side. A few wore army uniforms, but most were dressed in white shirts, green pants and carried helmets and small satchels. Some also carried military-style radios on their backs.

The troop movement appeared to be a replay of the night of May 19, when army units moved toward the city center but were blocked by citizens' barricades. Senior generals reportedly balked at using deadly force against the civilian population.

The weeks of protests have unleashed a power struggle in the government pitting hardliners backing senior leader Deng Xiaoping and Premier Li Peng against moderates grouped around the reformist Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang.


The leadership has thus far been unable to resolve the power battle as the protests have continued, but despite increased troop movements in Beijing, there had been no warning of a possible move against the protesters.

Li declared martial law May 20 but the decree has not yet been enforced and most troops have remained encamped outside the capital. About 200,000 soldiers are believed to be surrounding Beijing.

Chinese leaders and military commanders have repeatedly reassured the city that the army would not be used against the students, saying troops were in the capital to enforce martial law and halt the unrest.

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