China gives green light to embassy protests, but warns against violence
May 9, 1999
BEIJING (CNN) -- Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao gave his government's approval Sunday to anti-NATO protests that have erupted across China after Saturday's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.
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 he said demonstrators must obey the law and take China's interests into account.
"The Chinese government firmly supports and protects, in accordance with the law, all legal protest activities," Hu said. "We believe that the broad masses will, proceeding from the fundamental interests of the nation and taking the overall situation into account, carry out the activities in good order and in accordance with law."
NATO hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade early Saturday morning, killing at least three people and injuring 20. U.S. officials said the embassy was targeted by mistake because faulty intelligence information indicated the building was a Yugoslav supply facility.
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.
"We are essentially hostages of the embassy at the present time now. We've been here 48 hours without being able to leave," U.S. Ambassador James Sasser said.
The most violent protest came in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, where demonstrators burned a U.S. consulate, badly damaging the consul's residence. No Americans were injured, an embassy spokesman said, and police dispersed the protesters with tear gas.
In Beijing, thousands of students arrived at the embassy district in buses Sunday for a second day of demonstrations. The protesters adamantly rejected 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."
The embassy of at least one non-NATO nation was attacked as well. The Albanian embassy's political counselor Tonin Beci said that protesters had scaled the embassy wall and thrown bottles and stones and the building.
"Some of the stones hit at least six windows," he said. "Most of the windows were office windows, and one of them was the window of the flat where our ambassador and his family live."
Chinese media blames NATO
Police struggled to keep the protesters away from the embassy but did little to stop them from prying bricks from sidewalks for use as missiles. Several Western journalists were kicked, punched, or pelted with rocks.
U.S. officials pleaded for better help.
"If we don't get more security, the situation could slip out of control," said embassy spokesman Tom Cooney.
Other protests have erupted in Nanjing, Guanzhou, Shanghai, Lanzhou, Hong Kong and Macau, a Portuguese territory that reverts to Chinese rule in December.
Chinese media fueled the protesters' anger, largely ignoring NATO's apologies and its insistence that the embassy attack was an accident. Instead, media outlets like the People's Daily reported that NATO had "spilled Chinese blood" on purpose.
State media in China has played up civilian casualties from NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, but has ignored attacks by Yugoslav forces on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
In light of the continuing protests, the State Department announced that the embassy in Beijing and consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shengyang and Chengdu will be closed Monday and Tuesday at least.
Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon contributed to this report.
POWs beaten, shackled in Yugoslavia, military says
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