Parts of Forbidden City reopened


BEIJING, June 13, 1989 (UPI) - Parts of the fabled Forbidden City were reopened to the public Tuesday for the first time since martial law was declared May 20 but a wall of tanks and armored cars still guarded the front of the ancient abode of China's imperial rulers.

The move, intended to help restore an atmosphere of normality in the Chinese capital, was offset by an unusual lack of visitors to the sprawling 250-acre Imperial Palace complex, one of the nation's premier tourist attractions.


The few tourists who entered were Chinese.

The compound, known as the Forbidden City and brought to the world in the film ''The Last Emperor,'' bore signs of neglect and evidence lending credence to reports that it was used to billet troops involved in the June 3 military assault on student protesters in adjacent Tiananmen Square.

Weeds poked through the normally well-kept stone courtyards and paint peeled from the stately palace columns.

Most of the usually manicured circular lawns of the former imperial gardens were brown and flattened like well-worn campsites, apparently by tents pitched by soldiers.

The Forbidden City, initially built by Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty during the 12th century, was the home of China's emperors.


The complex consists of six main palaces and many smaller buildings containing 9,000 rooms. The imperial rulers forbade ordinary citizens and foreigners to enter the compound without special permission, on pain of death.

The complex, now a park, was opened to the public after the communist government took power from the Nationalist forces in 1949. It was sealed again when conservative Premier Li Peng declared martial law in parts of Beijing, including the Tiananmen Square area, May 20 in an initial attempt to quell pro-democracy protests.

The massive Meridian Gate, the main entrance to the Forbidden City, remained closed, sealing off the front of the compound from prying eyes. The impressive palace museums as well as the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Perfect Harmony were also shut.

Forty armored personnel carriers and five battle tanks sat in a row of steel before the Tiananmen Gate -- or Gate of Heavenly Peace. From its front portico hangs an immense portrait of Mao Tse-tung, the father of the communist state.

Across the street, armed soldiers standing rigidly at attention at 20-foot intervals maintained a cordon around the northern, eastern and western borders of Tiananmen Square to keep a curious public away. A line of tanks sat ponderously on the southern end of the world's largest public plaza.


But the roads skirting the eastern and western edges were open and thousands of bicyclists moved by slowly to stare at what has become a symbol for Chinese yearning for political change.

The world's largest Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, located off the square's southwest corner, opened for business after the departure of truckloads of troops who had used it as a barracks, hanging their washing out to dry under the smiling visage of Colonel Sanders.

At Beijing University, one of the bastions of the democracy movement, classrooms were locked and dormitories that once teemed with boarders were virtually empty, abandoned by students fleeing a nationwide crackdown by a vengeful government.

One student who opted to stay said he did not fear imminent arrest.

''We are very angry. We want to fight. We want revenge,'' he said. ''If the opportunity arises for me to do something for the student movement, I will do it. But now I just study.''

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