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China Celebrates 49th National Day

October 1, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ Despite catastrophic floods and pressure from the global financial crisis, China celebrated its 49th year under Communist Party rule today with praise for the nation’s achievements.

Holiday crowds thronged to the concrete expanse of Tiananmen Square today to view floral displays, fountains, and a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, who briefly served as president after the end of imperial rule in 1911.

A large red sign with white characters called for strong and healthy economic development.

While the rest of Asia stumbles through its worst economic setback in decades, China has managed to keep its economy strong and its reforms on track, Premier Zhu Rongji said in a speech Wednesday.

Zhu ticked off a list: a good harvest expected despite the floods, industrial production growing, foreign trade expanding, a stable currency, and success in cracking down on corruption and smuggling.

He also said Beijing was confident Hong Kong’s economy would recover from the battering of the financial crisis.

Touching briefly on Taiwan, he restated the government’s position that the ``one country, two systems″ formula that was used to return Hong Kong to China’s control in 1997 could work for Taiwan.

Among the diplomats, party officials and other dignitaries listening to Zhu’s speech on the eve of the anniversary of the Oct. 1, 1949, founding of the communist state were 80 flood heroes.

According to the official record, 3,004 people died in floods this summer that devastated south-central and northeastern China and Tibet.

To underscore Zhu’s theme of unity, Chinese ethnic minorities in traditional dress attended performances of songs and dances at the banquet in the Great Hall of the People.

Zhu made no mention of China’s sliding growth rate or a virtual halt in such reforms as privatizing home ownership.

The leadership has set a target of 8 percent growth for the year, a level considered the minimum needed to re-employ millions of people being laid off from debt-ridden state factories. Many economists expect growth of around 7 percent, down from 8.8 percent last year.

Zhu has led China’s economic reforms in recent years, steering the economy to a soft landing after overheated growth and high inflation that reached 21.7 percent in 1994.

He said ``more forceful financial policies″ now beginning would help expand domestic demand to keep the economy growing rapidly. Meanwhile, reform of state enterprises was moving ahead, giving the country more means of providing for the basic needs of laid-off workers and finding new jobs for them, Zhu said.

Zhu became premier in March and it was his first National Day address.

Also today, threats by officials and a show of force by police forced farmers outside a south China provincial capital to abandon a planned protest on the holiday, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement reported. An official with the city police department denied the report.

Farmers outside Changsha city blocked construction of a science park last month after a developer was three months late in paying them for their land, the Hong Kong-based rights group reported. After protests, officials agreed to provide compensation, but the villagers were not satisfied, saying the rate was well below market price, the group said.

Update hourly