BEIJING, June 14, 1989 (UPI) - China accused the United States of invading Chinese sovereignty by harboring a leading dissident and expelled two American journalists Wednesday in the harshest moves of an intensifying diplomatic row with Washington.
Amid a stiffening crackdown on democracy movement activists and foreign reporting of the recent turmoil, state-run television said a nationwide hunt netted at least 63 new fugitives.
The arrests boosted to more than 900 the number of people swept up since the Chinese army massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Beijing 10 days ago.
The television said the detainees included two men whose names were included in a most-wanted list of 21 student leaders of the democracy demonstrations,the largest outpouring of anti-government sentiment in nearly 40 years of communist rule. One of the pair was reportedly turned in by his sister.
The government had claimed 300 people, including 100 soldiers, died in the Chinese army's bloody crackdown June 3-5 on the protesters but on Wednesday, the official death toll was reduced to about 200. A Japanese official said a Chinese Red Cross source put the death toll at 2,600.
In a new move to unearth fugitive dissidents, the television issued a wanted notice for three leaders of an outlawed independent workers union, flashing their mug shots and short biographies across China and ordering border police to ensure they do not flee the country.
Despite the terror generated in Beijing by the sweep and the grip of military rule, tiny sprouts of defiance blossomed.
Black grafitti inscriptions on an overpass road read: ''Someone should take the lead and speak openly with the (Communist) party'' and ''What can we do? The government is unreasonable.''
Near central Tiananmen Square, a slogan written in English on the back of a traffic police box said, ''All these things must be answered for.''
The harboring by the U.S. Embassy of China's leading dissident, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, and his wife, Li Shuxian, brought the toughest anti-American blast from China.
''The American Embassy's offer of protection to Fang and Li is an invasion of Chinese sovereignty,'' said the People's Daily, official organ of the Communist Party. ''It is a violation of international law.''
The United States has refused to surrender Fang and Li, who are wanted on charges of ''counter-revolutionary'' crimes, which are tantamount to treason and punishable by death.
The U.S. decision to harbor the pair fueled a diplomatic row with China first fired by President Bush's suspension of military sales contracts to protest the bloody suppression of the student-led democracy movement.
Fang and his wife sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy after the government blamed them for an uprising by tens of thousands of Beijing residents against armor-backed troops who ruthlessly enforced martial law and ended a peaceful 22-day occupation of Tiananmen Square by protesters demanding more political freedom.
The dispute with the United States was further heightened Wednesday when authorities summoned the Beijing bureau chief of the Voice of America and a Beijing-based correspondent for The Associated Press and ordered them to leave China within 72 hours.
VOA's Alan W. Pessin, 33, and the AP's John Pomfret, 30, were accused of violating rigid restrictions imposed on news coverage of pro-democracy demonstrations when martial law was declared May 20.
Pomfret, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was accused of ''having frequent contacts with illegal organization leaders, passing on information to and providing shelter for them'' and ''obtaining state secrets through illegal means,'' said the official Xinhua News Agency.
Pessin was charged with ''writing stories to distort facts, spread rumor and incite and stir up turmoil and counter-revolutionary rebellion.''
The government has mounted a vicious smear campaign in recent days against VOA, the U.S. government's global radio network, accusing it of distorting coverage of the unrest in China.
Short-wave broadcasts by VOA and the British Broadcasting Corp. provide most Chinese with their sole source of uncensored news.
Pessin and Pomfret were the first Beijing-based correspondents expelled since early 1987, when an American reporter for the French news agency Agence France Presse and a Japanese reporter for Kyodo News Service were kicked out for coverage of nationwide student protests.
The political tensions contrasted with efforts by the army to scale back its daytime presence on Beijing's streets.
Nearly all the tanks and armored vehicles encamped in Tiananmen Square had been withdrawn by Wednesday. Truckloads of soldiers continued to prowl the city and armed troops remained on patrol, but secret police have taken over much of the arrest work.
A few bored-looking soldiers carrying assault rifles were posted on street corners in embassy districts and several diplomats complained their cars had been searched. But embassies were guarded only by a routine contingent of paramilitary police.
Hundreds of people stood outside the visa office of the U.S. Embassy on its first day open since June 2. Increasing numbers of Chinese are flooding the embassy with requests to flee the country.
''A lot of people are afraid of the government and want to go abroad,'' said a 32-year-old woman doctor who hoped to do research in the southern United States. ''Everyone has lost hope with the government. My motherland is unhappy.''