Eight Condemned, Thousands of Children Attend Service at Tiananmen
BEIJING (AP) _ Eight people were sentenced to death Saturday for allegedly beating soldiers and burning vehicles when troops took over Tiananmen Square at the start of the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
The government also said two men were captured after they fired at soldiers guarding a bridge early Saturday. Four Western reporters left China after being expelled for violating martial law.
Authorities allowed civilians onto Tiananmen Square for the first time since soldiers backed by tanks entered the plaza the night of June 3-4 to drive out student protesters and crush their seven-week movement for a freer society.
About 10,000 children wearing red scarves of the Young Pioneers, a Communist youth group, lined up on the 100-acre square in central Beijing while group members placed a wreath of flowers at the Heroes’ Monument.
The monument, where thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered day and night for three weeks until the army moved in, was decorated with banners including one that read: ″Love socialism and the mother country.″
After the ceremony the children were trucked out of Tiananmen, which is still blocked off by armed soldiers. Pedestrians are not allowed inside.
China’s evening TV news on Friday showed crews disinfecting the square, repairing the pavement and replanting bushes. The military took selected reporters on a tour of the square Friday.
The eight sentenced to die were the first to be condemned for trying to stop the People’s Liberation Army from moving on the student protesters in Tiananmen, the symbolic center of China.
The seven men and one woman were identified in an official television report as workers, peasants and unemployed local residents, and were shown appearing before the Beijing People’s Intermediate Court for sentencing.
Three men in Shanghai were sentenced to death Thursday after a court said they incited protests and set fire to a train in rioting following the crackdown in Beijing.
Beijing radio said 109 people in the capital had turned themselves in since the government started rounding up leaders of the pro-democracy movement. It also said 16 people surrendered in Nanjing, one of the many Chinese cities where protests broke out after the military sweep in Beijing.
Authorities have arrested more than 1,200 people nationwide in the last two weeks, including four on a wanted list of 21 student leaders.
The official Xinhua News Agency said two ″ruffians″ shot at soldiers and injured one after troops fired warning shots and ordered the gunmen to stop.
The gunmen fled but were later captured and turned over to security forces, Xinhua said. The report did not say how they obtained the firearms.
John Pomfret of The Associated Press and Alan Pessin of the U.S. Government-run Voice of America, both resident correspondents in Beijing, arrived in Hong Kong after being told Wednesday to leave the country within 72 hours.
They were accused of violating martial law regulations prohibiting foreign reporters from covering the pro-democracy movement.
Vernon Mann and John Elphinstone, both of Britain’s Independent Television News, also took a flight to Hong Kong on Saturday after being given 24 hours to leave China.
Officials in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, accused them of violating martial law while filming unrest in the south-central city on Wednesday.
A week ago, Peter Newport, another ITN journalist, was ordered out of China from Shanghai, where he had scuffled with police while filming a small student rally.
The government issued another martial law order Saturday directing people to turn over to public security officials all guns or broadcasting or videotaping equipment.
It also kept up its attacks on the Voice of America, saying the short-wave radio network was ″perpetrating a fraud.″
VOA ″kept spreading the rumor that the Liberation Army committed a ‘blood bath’ of Tiananmen Square so as to attack China,″ Xinhua said in a commentary.
The government says 200 to 300 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in the confrontation. Chinese witnesses and Western intelligence reports say troops fired on unarmed crowds and killed up to 3,000.
The government did not deny that people were killed ″during the quelling of the counterrevolutionary rebellion,″ Xinhua said, but repeated earlier statements that no one was killed when troops marched into the square.
″The nearly 300 people who died included officers and men of the Liberation Army, a handful of ruffians who deserved their deaths, and a small number of citizens who deserved their deaths,″ Xinhua said.
The VOA is a major source of information for millions of Chinese seeking information other than news reported by the tightly controlled domestic press.
China’s top trade official was quoted Saturday as urging foreign governments to resume aid and loans to China that had been cut off in protest of the crackdown.
The United States has banned military sales and contracts, France has frozen relations with China and Japan has put off new development assistance loans.
Aid suppliers should take a ″farsighted view″ of their economic relations with China and not ″interfere with Chinese internal affairs,″ Beijing radio quoted Zheng Tuobin, minister of foreign economic relations and trade, as saying.