Chinese in Belgrade, Beijing protest NATO embassy bombing
May 9, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Chinese citizens and government officials Sunday intensified protests over a NATO bombing that claimed three lives at China's embassy in Belgrade, despite apologies from the alliance which called the attack an accident.
The father of one victim broke down as he held the bloodstained bed covers inside the room where his daughter and son-in-law died. The couple were both journalists and had moved from an apartment to the embassy because they thought it would be safer.
Hundreds of Chinese gathered for a second day of protests at the Chinese Embassy, where bouquets of flowers poked through the bars, resting on a sign with Chinese characters, a memorial for the victims.
A 34-member Chinese delegation, including Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Guozhang, inspected the heavily damaged compound on Sunday. Wang denounced the attack and called for an end to the entire NATO bombing campaign.
Besides investigating the incident, the Chinese delegation is arranging to take the dead and wounded back to China.
Twenty people were hurt in the Saturday morning attack. Six were injured seriously and remain in intensive care at a Belgrade hospital.
U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Sunday expressing regret over the bombing, which he called an unfortunate accident, White House officials said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen and CIA Director George Tenet in a joint statement had called the attack the result of "faulty information."
NATO believed the building housed a Yugoslav military facility, not the Chinese Embassy, officials said.
"Those involved in targeting mistakenly believed that the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement was at the location that was hit," the statement said.
On Sunday, however, protesters intensified their demonstrations against numerous U.S. embassies and consulates in China, adamantly rejecting apologies offered by U.S. and NATO officials for the bombing.
"Apology is not enough," one man shouted. "Clinton must be tried for war crimes."
Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao, lending support to the protesters, condemned the bombing and said all legal demonstrations will be allowed to continue.
The protests, Hu said, "fully reflect the Chinese people's great fury at the atrocity of the embassy attacks by NATO and the Chinese people's strong patriotism."
But demonstrators must obey the law and take China's interests into account, he said.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Beijing on Sunday near the U.S. Embassy, many students bused in for a second day of protests. Police cordoned off the site after protesters pummeled it with bricks and rocks.
U.S. Ambassador to China Jim Sasser, inside the embassy, said the Chinese government had guaranteed his and his staff's safety.
"The problem ... is that this whole thing could spin out of control," Sasser told CBS's "Face The Nation" by telephone. "We're just hoping that the police can continue to control them."
Sasser reported extensive damage to the embassy, including his personal residence. He said he has been confined to the embassy for 48 hours, separated from his family.
"We are essentially hostages," he said.
Several journalists, including CNN's Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon, were assailed by protesters.
Protesters threw stones at the British embassy. Nearby, people visited a candle-lit shrine for the victims.
Also under siege was the Albanian embassy, where diplomats said they had been trapped for more than a day with little help from Chinese police.
Tens of thousands of Chinese have taken to the streets of provincial capitals across China, marching on the embassies of NATO countries, particularly U.S. facilities.
In the southern city of Chengdu, protesters set ablaze the U.S. consul's residence. The residence was badly damaged, but no one was hurt. Police dispersed the protesters with tear gas.
The U.S. State Department announced that the embassy in Beijing and consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shengyang and Chengdu will be closed at least until Tuesday.
Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon and Correspondents Brent Sadler, Chris Black and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
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