BEIJING, Monday, June 5,1989 — Army units tightened their hold on the center of the Chinese capital on Sunday, moving in large convoys on some of the main thoroughfares and firing indiscriminately at crowds as outraged citizens continued to attack and burn army vehicles.
It was clear that at least 300 people had been killed since the troops first opened fire shortly after midnight on Sunday morning but the toll may be much higher. Word-of-mouth estimates countinued to soar, some reaching far into the thousands. Outbreaks of firing continued today, as more convoys of troops moved through the city.
The bloodshed stunned Beijing and seemed to traumatize its citizens. Normal life halted as armored personnel carriers and troop trucks rumbled along debris-filled roads, with soldiers firing their automatic weapons in every direction. Smoke filled the sky as workers and students vented frustration and outrage by burning army vehicles wherever they found them separated from major convoys,in side streets or at intersections.
Square Is Sealed Off
The area around central Tiananmen Square was completely sealed by troops who periodically responded with bursts of automatic-weapons fire whenever crowds drew close to the square.
By ordering soldiers to fire on the unarmed crowds, the Chinese leadership has created an incident that almost surely will haunt the Government for years to come. It is believed here that after the bloodshed of this weekend, it will be incomparably more difficult to rule China.
Many fewer people than normal were in the streets Sunday and today, and some of them ended up in the hospitals or in the morgues. The number of casualties may never be known, because the Government has asked hospitals not to report any numbers on deaths or injuries. However, based on accounts pieced together from doctors at several hospitals, it seems that at least 200 died in the hospitals and that many other corpses were probably left in the hands of the military.
Saving the Living
”We had to concentrate on those who were still living,” one doctor said today. ”We had to leave behind most of those who already were dead.”
When troops finally seized Tiananmen Square early Sunday morning, they allowed the student occupiers who held on to the center of the square for three weeks to leave and then sent tanks to run over the tents and makeshift encampment that demonstrators had set up. Unconfirmed reports rapidly spread that some students had remained in the tents and were crushed to death.
The troops sealed off Tiananmen Square and started a huge bonfire. Many Beijing residents drew the conclusion, again impossible to verify, that the soldiers cremated corpses to destroy the evidence.
A Higher Estimate
The student organization that coordinated the long protests continued to function and announced today that 2,600 students were believed to have been killed. Several doctors said that, based on their discussions with ambulance drivers and colleagues who had been on Tiananmen Square, they estimated that at least 2,000 had died. But some of these estimates, based principally on antipathy for the Government, appeared to be high. Soldiers also beat and bayonetted students and workers after daybreak on Sunday, witnesses said, usually after some provocation but sometimes entirely at random.
”I saw a young woman tell the soldiers that they are the people’s army, and that they mustn’t hurt the people,” a young doctor said after returning from one clash Sunday. ”Then the soldiers shot her, and ran up and bayonetted her. I ran away, so I couldn’t tell if she lived or died.” News of the killings quickly spread to other parts of China, principally by radio reports from the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Chinese-language broadcasts have been jammed recently, but not on all frequencies.
In Shanghai, some supporters of the democracy movement reacted to the killings in Beijing by going on strike, a diplomat there said in a telephone interview. However, few factories are open on Sundays, so the real test of a strike will come today, and many people doubt that a strike will be successful because of a lack of organization among workers.
In addition, Shanghai residents expressed protest by erecting barricades throughout the city to block traffic.
In northeastern China, small demonstrations to protest the killings in Beijing were held in Shenyang, Dalian and Changchun. However, in those areas there has not been much talk of a general strike, a diplomat said.
Huge convoys of scores of army vehicles, led by tanks, continued to roll through the main roads of Beijing this morning and early afternoon, skirting trucks that had been set on fire by civilians with molotov cocktails. Troops in the vehicles fired their submachine guns constantly, mostly in the air. However, some casualties were reported.
Troops still fired periodically when clusters of people gathered near the Beijing Hotel, and several people were reported killed and injured. Among them was a middle-aged Western man was hit in the leg and stomach, according to a witness. He could not be immediately identified and his condition was not known.
In a sign that the troops’ mission is not over, the television news today broadcast a letter from the army headquarters to the soldiers, congratulating them on their ”everlasting historic exploits in defending our republic” and warning that ”the struggle is a long and complicated one.”
”Arriving at the scheduled positions and restoring order at the square is only the first elementary victory we have achieved,” the letter added, without elaborating. ”More dfficult and challenging tasks remain before us.”
China’s television news on Sunday night showed the army knocking down a replica of the Statue of Liberty that students had put in place on the square. The broadcast hailed troops for ”victoriously crushing this counterrevolutionary rebellion.”
The broadcast did not mention civilian casualties, but said that three soldiers had been killed and two were missing.
In fact, one of the three, a man who was described as ”beaten dead by ruffians on Jianguomen Bridge,” had actually been run over by an armored personnel carrier.
Destruction of Army Vehicles
The official news also indicated that people had destroyed 31 military trucks, 23 police cars, two armored personnel carriers and 31 buses. But those numbers seemed much too low, for everywhere in Beijing people reacted to the killings by torching vehicles and creating blockades. The troops only controlled a few major thoroughfares, and elsewhere citizens continued to control the streets.
One soldier who had shot a young child was overpowered by a large crowd in the Chongwenmen district early Sunday, and then hanged and burned as he dangled from a bridge. Troops later arrived at the scene and cut down his smoking corpse.
The Government issued an announcement calling for the return of weapons it said had been taken from the army, as well as demanding that ”kidnapped” troops be returned. The announcement could be interpreted as preparing the way for an attack on several universities, on the ground of recovering stolen weapons.
Student leaders apparently have some submachine guns that were taken from soldiers or from supply trucks, but at least so far they have seemed more interested in displaying the weapons than in using them. Students at People’s University also seized an armored personnel carrier this afternoon and drove it around their neighborhood, but there was no indication that they planned to use them against troops.
No Word From Deng or Li
There was no announcement from the senior leader, Deng Xiaoping, Prime Minister Li Peng or other officials who presumably ordered the military attack on student demonstrators. Mr. Li is believed to be winning so far in a major power struggle with the Communist Party General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang, who favors a more moderate line toward protesters.
Some accounts had Mr. Deng in poor health, and even in a hospital, but diplomats noted that such rumors invariably surface whenever the 84-year-old leader has been absent from view for a period of time. Mr. Deng has not app eared in public since he met the Soviet President, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, on May 16.
The demonstrations began after the death April 15 of a former Communist Party leader, Hu Yaobang, who was widely admired for his moderate policies. Until the weekend, both the Government and the demonstrators had been very restrained, but the army’s use of violence seemed to radicalize many protesters.
Students at Beijing University were busy today making firebombs that they planned to hurl against troops whom they expected to assault the campus. Rumors of such an assault circulated throughout the day but by the early hours of Monday morning, none had taken place.
A Stunned Response
Beijing residents seemed stunned by the violent attacks on the protesters for democracy, but unsure how to respond. While many students and young workers are militant and insist that they will win in the long run, older people already seem to have accepted defeat.
”The democracy movement is already finished,” a Chinese journalist said despondently.
After the first attacks Sunday, calls for a general strike were heard from the outraged protesters. However, a physician said that there was little chance for a stppage to succeed because the army would immediately force people to do their jobs on threat of death.
”We have no guns so we can’t fight,” the doctor said. ”But after a few months, the movement will bubble up again.”
Debris and Chaos
A long drive through much of the capital on Sunday – on almost deserted streets filled with the twisted remains of barricades run over by tanks and armored personnel carriers – suggested how far the city must go to restore normal conditions. Smoke rises at major intersections from the carcasses of military trucks that have been turned over and set alight, and automatic-weapons fire is now part of Beijing’s background noise.
The northern section of the second ring road was a tangle of debris from road blocks that tanks had pushed aside, as well as long buses that are arranged to block traffic. At every intersection, curls of smoke rose from burning trucks, and in some places when the air is still, the air is so acrid that it is quite uncomfortable.
More than 100 people, mostly local workers, lined each of the overpasses above the second ring road. They no longer police their own checkpoints, but they still show up to to see if there is anything they can do to keep the government at bay and protect the students.
It remains very difficult to find out what is happening in other parts of the capital. Telephone services are overloaded and unreliable, and so are the rumor networks. Indiscriminate firing by troops discourages people from staying on the main roads, and barricades make it difficult to take narrower routes.
No foreigners are known to have been died in the recent shooting, but at least two suffered minor bullet wounds and several other foreigners have been beaten, usually for taking photographs. Two CBS News employees, Richard Roth, a correspondent, and Derek Williams, a cameraman, were released Sunday night after spending the entire day in detention.