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U.S. reopens visa office in Beijing

By JERVINA LAO

BEIJING, June 14, 1989 (UPI) - The U.S. Embassy opened its visa office Wednesday for the first time in nearly two weeks, drawing a crowd of about 300 Chinese, including some who said they wanted to leave to avoid a widening crackdown on dissent.

Many of the applicants appeared nervous and refused to talk or give their names. Several said they were frightened.

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A U.S. official said the embassy reopened its visa section Wednesday morning after shutting down June 2 during widespread disturbances in the capital and accepted applications from about 140 people, mostly students who ''have deadlines for next school year.''

About 150 more people seeking visas for other reasons were asked to return later. The official said they were only accepting applications Wednesday and no visas were issued.

A small truck carrying about 10 armed soldiers at one point sped by the embassy, leading to a quick departure by some applicants already jittery about being seen lining up outside the visa section.

A 32-year-old physician, who refused to be identified, said she wanted to leave to do research at the University of Georgia and was unhappy about China's present situation.

''Everyone has lost hope for the government,'' she said. ''I have lost hope for the government. My motherland is unhappy too.

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''A lot of students are afraid of the government and want to go abroad,'' she said. ''Next year they will all try to go abroad.''

A 23-year-old pianist said she planned to join her husband in Philadelphia next month.

''I am just scared of something ... just something,'' she whispered.

The official said there normally was a ''fairly high acceptance rate'' for Chinese applicants and the chances of getting a visa now are ''the same as they always are, set forth by law.''

He said the number of applicants Wednesday was ''not totally out of line a this time of the year'' because many students were preparing to leave for studies in the United States in the coming school term.

He said the embassy decided to accept visa applications again because ''things have calmed down enough.''

The visa office was closed one day before Chinese troops ended a 22-day student protest at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in a hail of gunfire, killing hundreds of demontrators and bystanders.

A teacher at Beijing University, one of the bastions of the student democracy movement, said he had been trying for years to go the United States.

Asked if he felt a greater need to leave now because of the government crackdown, he looked nervously at the embassy guards and answered, ''I'm not sure.''

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