Americans Celebrate Low-Key Independence Day With AM-China, Bjt
BEIJING (AP) _ Americans in Beijing celebrated an early Fourth of July on Saturday with a barbecue and imported beer but without the street dances and rock music that characterized previous years’ bashes.
Only about 200 people showed up for the cookout on the patio of one of the three U.S. Embassy compounds in Beijing’s main diplomatic sector. That compared to the 1,500 who attended the block party last year. The 1988 bash featured rock bands as well as McDonald’s hamburgers that the fast-food chain flew in from Hong Kong.
Many Americans fled Beijing when China declared martial law in May and when troops moved last month to crush student-led protests for democratic reforms.
At noon on Saturday, eight police guards armed with submachine guns appeared around the embassy complex but refused to say why they were there. They may have hoped for an appearance by dissident Fang Lizhi and his wife, who are wanted by police and have been hiding at the embassy.
It was the first time in weeks that guards outside the embassy had weapons. Police guards with handguns are stationed outside each diplomatic mission in Beijing, but since the military crackdown June 3-4, their holsters have been empty.
″I wouldn’t read a lot into it,″ said McKinney Russell, director at the embassy of the U.S. Information Agency. ″Every time there’s any kind of movement, the police presence is stepped up.″
The Chinese outside the embassy gate were police normally assigned to the embassy, according to a U.S. Marine guard who said he knows them well.
″Same guys, new guns,″ the Marine said.
The guards were stationed around the U.S. facility temporarily and will scale back their numbers after July 4, one of the guards said.
About 70 police showed up at the Fourth of July party last year, diplomats said.
″I didn’t think that was excessive,″ said one Foreign Service officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. ″They were there to keep Chinese from looking in at us through the bars, but they ended up looking at us through the bars.″
There was no extra security at the July Fourth party in 1987, according to diplomats who were in Beijing then.