Tiananmen Square Re-Opens to Public for First Time Since Crackdown
BEIJING (AP) _ Tiananmen Square re-opened to the public today, almost four weeks after army tanks stormed the grounds in a violent suppression of China’s pro- democracy movement.
Hundreds of people who had obtained special permission filed through the vast square in orderly lines, peering first at the Forbidden City’s Gate of Heavenly Peace and then at the few soldiers who patroled the square.
Eight police guards with new weapons meanwhile stood around the U.S. Embassy as diplomats and U.S. citizens took part in an annual Fourth of July party.
The eight with submachine guns were People’s Armed Police regularly assigned to the embassy, a diplomat inside the compound said.
″Same guys, different guns,″ said the diplomat, who spoke on condition he not be identified by name.
PAP officers with pistols normally stand guard at foreign embassies. It was not immediately clear why these guards were re-armed.
The appearance of guards carrying more powerful weapons sparked some fears because of strained relations in recent weeks between Washington and Beijing over the military crackdown and the status of a leading Chinese dissident, astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, who has taken refuge at the U.S. mission.
Elsewhere, hundreds of cheerful tourists gathered on the rostrum above the Gate of Heavenly Peace, where Mao Tse-tung declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.
There was no sign of the terror and grief that engulfed Tiananmen June 3-4, when the People’s Liberation Army stormed the square, shooting its way through hundreds of thousands of unarmed protesters.
The government says about 300 people were killed, half of them soldiers. Chinese witnesses and Western diplomats say the deaths were in the thousands.
Foreign tourists today paid 30 yuan ($8.10) while Chinese paid $2.70, two days’ wages for many workers, to stand atop the gate.
Visitors from Liaoning, Sichuan, Shandong and Hubei provinces snapped away with their cameras. Most said they had not heard of the deaths during the military crackdown.
Some crowded to get an autograph of Wang Fuyi, one of the martial law commanders who brought troops to quell what the Chinese government has called a ″counterrevolutionary rebellion″ last month. Others jostled each other to seek an autograph of Zhang Baifa, vice mayor of Beijing.
Groups of a dozen soldiers with AK-47 rifles marched by the gate every minute.
Tiananmen opened a day after former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang was stripped of his last government title.
Zhao, ousted as party general secretary a week ago, was dismissed by senior leader Deng Xiaoping as vice chairman of the State Central Military Commission. Deng is chairman of the commission.
Zhao, a moderate, was effectively ousted more than a month ago, after he paid a tearful visit on May 19 to students on a hunger strike in Tiananmen. He has not been seen since.
President Yang Shangkun, who spent his career in the military, reportedly was seeking to replace Zhao on the commission. The commission’s senior vice chairman is second to Deng in the government’s military command.