Violence erupts between troops, protesters


BEIJING, June 3, 1989 (UPI) - Troops fired tear gas and beat students with sticks Saturday to break up pro-democracy protests near Beijing's central square, and a state broadcast warned the army would use ''all kind of measures'' to restore order.

Demonstrators responded by hurling rocks and bricks, and at least 30 people were injured in clashes marked by force for the first time in seven weeks of the student-led protests provoking crisis among China's communist leadership.


More than 100 armored trucks rumbled in convoys through the western and southern parts of the capital, apparently headed to Tiananmen Square, the center of the pro-democracy movement.

The reason for the crackdown was not clear, but some witnesses said soldiers moved in after demonstrators had seized a busload of weapons that had stalled during a botched overnight assault. The violence and attempted army advance indicated authorities had lost patience with continued defiance of martial law, which has gone virtually unenforced since its imposition two weeks ago.


Yet in a replay of spontaneous action two weeks ago by people enraged that troops would be called out, citizens sprang up throughout Saturday to stop the advance of army columns and to plead with soldiers to not use force.

At the Great Hall of the People, site of an earlier clash, about 5,000 troops abandoned a nearly six-hour standoff with protesters wielding sharpened metal rods and wooden clubs, retreating into the parliament building to the cheers of more than 10,000 students and others.

A wall of people, some of whom scrambled atop vehicles urging troops to disobey orders to enforce martial law, stalled a convoy of at least 70 armored trucks carrying as many as 2,000 soldiers armed with automatic weapons on Beijing's east side.

Security officials warned citizens to remain in their homes ''to protect your lives'' in a statement broadcast over state radio and television that described events as ''an important political struggle for the future of the nation.''

''The People's Liberation Army must carry out their orders,'' said a statement read on Central Chinese Television's national evening news broadcast. ''If they meet any obstructions, the PLA will use all kind of measures to protect themselves and overcome the obstacles.''


About 200,000 troops are believed to have encircled the city.

The violence came hours after students and citizens hastily erected makeshift barricades to thwart an attempt early Saturday by thousands of soldiers to move into Tiananmen Square, which has been occupied by the protesters since May 13 to press demands for talks with senior leaders and for the resignation of Premier Li Peng, who ordered martial law May 20.

Reporters witnessed at least 20 students and citizens and at least 10 soldiers taken away in ambulances. There also were reports of arrests but those could not be confirmed immediately.

The forcible attempt to uphold martial law unfolded on the west side of the square, around the Great Hall of the People and the Zhongnanhai Communist Party compound about a half-mile west of the plaza.

Witnesses said about 10,000 protesters were marching toward the compound from the west at about 2 p.m. when a line of soldiers moved across the road. The troops beat back the protesters with sticks and fired tear gas, but enraged demonstrators responded by hurling rocks and bricks.

Citizens massed on the east side also began throwing rocks at police, drawing more tear gas -- at least 25 canisters -- witnesses said. The onslaught of rocks smashed lampposts and broke windows in army buses parked nearby.


About 5,000 soldiers gathered at the rear of the Great Hall out of sight of Tiananmen to confront the protesters. Drawn into a circle, those soldiers beat students with rubber truncheons to force their retreat.

''Go back, go back,'' demonstrators chanted.

Soldiers knocked an American television cameraman off his ladder as he filmed the melee, but demonstrators chanting ''freedom of the press'' rushed to his aid and helped him escape.

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