US Embassy In Beijing
Besieged By
Anti-US/NATO Protesters
By Max Glaskin
BEIJING (CP) -- Students held a third day of protests outside the U.S. and British embassies early Monday, trapping American diplomats inside their compound in demonstrations against NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.
Protesters marched along a police-guarded route that took them past the embassies. On Sunday, thousands thronged past the compounds, smashing windows at the U.S. mission with stones and splattering its walls with paint.
In Toronto, about 2,000 Chinese and Serbian protesters protested in front of the U.S. consulate on Sunday, and a few tried to storm the building.
Police stopped them, but not before being pelted with bottles. One was arrested but held only briefly, CTV reported.
NATO and the United States have said the embassy attack in Belgrade was accidental and have expressed deep regret.
During a lull in the protests before dawn, some diplomats were able to leave an office building near the U.S. ambassador's residence in Beijing. But three blocks away, U.S. Ambassador James Sasser and others remained holed up in the embassy compound surrounded by hundreds of police wearing riot helmets.
Police blocked nearby streets and ordered foreign reporters away from corners where they could see the embassy. "The Chinese people have flown into furies" over the attack on the Belgrade embassy, the People's Daily,"If anybody thinks he can intimidate the Chinese through the use of force, he will find himself completely wrong," it said.
During Sunday's protests, many in Beijing carried signs with four Chinese characters that mean "a debt of blood must be repaid in blood." Protesters attacked the British and Albanian missions and demonstrated at U.S. consulates elsewhere in the country.
It has been the biggest public protest since the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations 10 years ago. Thousands of police kept watch Sunday, the second day of the government-sanctioned protest, but did not try to stop the rock-throwing.
The Chinese government put the number of demonstrators Sunday at 20,000, but the constant stream made it difficult to count. "We are essentially hostages of the embassy at the present time now. We've been here 48 hours without being able to leave," Sasser said by telephone.
He said protesters had thrown a gasoline bomb through a window and that the government had encouraged the demonstrations. Protesters also smashed paving stones to throw at embassy buildings. "The danger is that this could spin out of control," Sasser said.
The demonstrations were dominated by strongly nationalistic and anti-American rhetoric. Profanity and swastikas appeared on many signs about the United States and President Bill Clinton. "Down with the United States," demonstrators chanted until they were hoarse. "Protect the fatherland's sovereignty."
Demonstrators also threw rocks at the British and Albanian embassies and gathered at the German Embassy in another diplomatic neighbourhood. Foreign Affairs spokesman Claude Demers said that the Canadian embassy was also the subject of protests Sunday, but nothing was thrown.
An Albanian diplomat, Tonin Beci, said by telephone that his embassy had received threatening phone calls from people who claimed Albania had sided with NATO against Yugoslavia.
Demonstrators jumped over the Albanian embassy's wall for brief intrusions on the grounds and threw rocks from the street, Beci said. Some rocks hit Albanian officials when they were briefly outside but caused no serious injuries, he said.
Sasser and his staff expressed "profound sorrow" over the bombing in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, and condolences to families of the victims, an embassy statement said.
Three people were killed. More than 20 were injured, six seriously, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Neither Sasser's statement nor Clinton's expression of regret over what he called a "tragic mistake" were reported by China's state-controlled news media.
Chinese media also have not reported the Serb attacks on ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province that NATO air strikes were intended to stop. China has blamed NATO for creating the refugee crisis.
Many protesters believed the Chinese Embassy was deliberately targeted.
U.S. offices in China were scheduled to be closed today and Tuesday. The two main international schools in Beijing cancelled classes today.