Students Hold Illegal March, Sit-In at Tiananmen
PEKING (AP) _ About 1,000 students held a sit-in early today at a monument to Communist heroes in Peking’s central square, capping nearly 24 hours of illegal marches and tense confrontations between thousands of pro-democracy protesters and police.
The sit-in in Tiananmen Square ended peacefully after about an hour when the students agreed to board buses provided by police and return to campus.
About 5,000 students held an illegal five-hour march through the city’s snow-covered streets beginning at about 11 p.m. Thursday to demand authorities release protesters detained during the day’s confrontations.
Authorities returned 11 detained students to heroes’ welcomes at Peking University early today, but the marchers insisted that 13 students from other schools still were being held.
The official Xinhua News Agency said all students had been released after ″education and examination.″ However, it did not say what happened to several non-student ″troublemakers″ it also said were detained.
The marchers, chanting, ″Free our comrades,″ set out from Peking University. They first surrounded the campus home of school President Ding Shigun, and he told them he would have an answer about the fate of the detainees in two hours.
The number of marchers dwindled along the 10-mile route to Tiananmen Square because of sub-zero cold and icy streets.
At several points along the route, university Vice President Xia Zhenxun appeared to announce that the detained students had been released back at the campus. That brought cheers and some defections from the ranks of the marchers.
Police set up four roadblocks along the way but made no attempt to interfere with the march, which was illegal under new city regulations that require demonstrators to apply for a police permit at least five days in advance. About 1,000 students finally reached the empty, 100-acre square and marched around the Monument to the People’s Heroes. They held a one-hour sit-in before boarding buses for campus.
The freed students were greeted on campus by 2,000-3,000 cheering students who hoisted some on their shoulders.
The former detainees said some of them were hit in the face and one was knocked down and hit by police. They said they were not fed during their 12 hours in police custody.
The march and sit-in ended the most turbulent day of pro-democracy demonstrations since tens of thousands streamed into the streets of Shanghai on Dec. 19-23. Student protests also have been reported in eight other cities in the past month, including Kunming, Wuhan and Hefei.
Pro-democracy posters put up on campuses in Peking in recent days had called on students to gather Thursday in Tiananmen Square, the site of rallies by 1 million radical Red Guards during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
But early Thursday, police blocked off all entries to the square. Students at one point broke through the lines and made a dash for the heroes’ monument, but were pushed back in a lengthy shoving match that also caught up thousands of onlookers. There were no reported injuries.
Shortly after noon, about 1,000 students marched a short distance up Changan Avenue, Peking’s main thoroughfare, unfurling banners supporting government reforms and shouting, ″Long live democracy.″
The students wheeled about and entered the square again through a breach in the police lines. They were driven back in the roughest encounter of the day, and several students were detained at that time.
Police on the whole showed restraint, as they have at other demonstrations in the past month.
However, the government and official media have become increasingly strident in warning students they are endangering the nation’s hard-won stability and that those who advocate an end to the Communist Party rule will be punished. The official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday quoted Vice President Ulanhu as saying, ″Words or conduct denying the (Communist) party’s leadership or advocating bourgeois liberalism are against the interests of the people and the historical trend and will surely meet with the people’s opposition.″