Violence in Chengdu Cost Up to 30 Lives, Witnesses Say With PM-China, Bjt
CHENGDU, China (AP) _ When Beijing’s night of blood and fire had ended, witnesses said police with clubs attacked people gathered at a huge statue of Mao in Chengdu, 1,000 miles away, starting riots that spread through the city.
Witnesses said a market was destroyed by flames and a row of buses was burned during two days of street battles that began Sunday, June 4.
They said up to 30 people were killed, more than half of them students. Official press reports have said 300 police were injured but have not mentioned fatalities.
It was one of the most violent episodes outside Beijing, where soldiers swept into Tiananmen Square the night of June 3-4 to end weeks of student protests for democracy.
The government says a few hundred people were killed in Beijing, at least half of them soldiers, but Chinese witnesses and Western intelligence put the civilian death toll at about 3,000.
As in the capital, students in Chengdu began protesting for democracy in mid-April after the death of former Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, who lost his job for being too easy on student protests two years earlier.
Their focal point was the white 50-foot statue of Mao Tse-Tung, father of communist China, in the heart of Chengdu, capital of central Sichuan province.
On that Sunday, police charged in with clubs, arresting 47 students and four workers the official media said were camping out at the statue.
Word of the assault spread and 10,000 people gathered at the statue, witnesses said. Reports of the Beijing bloodshed also were coming in by telephone and Voice of America radio.
Protesters attacked police and were turned back with tear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said.
A student reported seeing at least one person killed with a bayonet. Unconfirmed reports said several people were shot dead.
″Many students were beaten with clubs with enlarged ends that leave no marks but scramble your brains,″ said a student at Sichuan University, a center of the democracy movement.
The Sichuan Daily and Chengdu Evening News have denied rumors that two women were mutilated with bayonets.
That night, protesters set fire to a police booth at the entrance of the People’s Market and the flames spread through the entire half-block area. Several city buses also were burned.
″It was a mess,″ said a 20-year-old artist who watched the market burn. ″There were fire trucks and ambulances everywhere.″
There were no reports of injuries or deaths in the fire, which the artist said started soon after midnight.
The next day - Monday, June 5 - news of the carnage in Beijing spread and more people went to the statue.
Protesters burned more buses and police threw smoke bombs into the crowd, witnesses said.
At about 10 p.m., 100 people went on a rampage down People’s South Road toward the Jinjiang Hotel.
″They came by and smashed a stack of beer bottles we had outside,″ said a bartender at the Flying Dragon Beer House. ″Fortunately, they left us alone otherwise.″
The looters smashed windows of the Chengdu Department Store and the Minshan Hotel, across the street from the Jinjiang, and overturned a taxi into a pond, witnesses said. Scaling the locked gates of the Jinjiang, about half a dozen stormed the front door.
″They had knives and steel pipes. They kept chasing us to the back of the hotel,″ said a waiter at the Jinjiang’s lobby bar. ″They stole beer and cigarettes. They scared the hell out of us.″
When five truckloads of police arrived after half an hour, the raiders scattered.
″None appeared to be students,″ a witness said. ″They were factory workers, thugs and teen-agers, unrelated to the pro-democracy movement or the people-police conflict.″
That night, the People’s Movie Theater across from the market was burned down.
Shopkeepers across the street from the market were reluctant to talk with foreigners. Several said brusquely that they had closed June 5 for several days, and therefore saw nothing.
″If you’re reporters go talk to city officials,″ a restaurant manager said. ″We’re just minding our own business.″
Official press reports said police arrested 100 ″hoodlums,″ but there has been no mention of students other than a ban on their activist union.
Few students remain on campus because no classes are being held, and some have fled in fear of government reprisals.
″The unrest is basically over,″ said a sophomore studying chemistry at Sichuan University. ″I came back because I had to see my professors and do some experiments.″
″I think the student movement is over, and it won’t come back in September,″ when classes are likely to resume, said a senior majoring in English.
More than 400 American citizens, including dependents of consulate staff members, have left Sichuan and surrounding provinces via Hong Kong, leaving about 80 in the region, U.S. officials say. The consulate issued an advisory saying travel to Beijing should be avoided.
Truckloads of police cruise the streets and authorities are putting pressure on foreign journalists in Chengdu, as well as in Beijing and Shanghai.
Police confiscated the passports of two correspondents of Britain’s Independent Television Network on Tuesday and had not returned them by Thursday.