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Copyright 1999 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

May 18, 1999 02:34 GMT

SECTION: International news

LENGTH: 343 words

HEADLINE: Dissidents slam China for "cynically" allowing anti-NATO protests


   US-based dissidents on Tuesday slammed the Chinese government for "cynically" allowing angry protests against NATO while forbidding commemoration of those who died in the bloody crackdown of 1989.

"We ... mourn the tragic deaths of our fellow countrymen and women, who were killed in the accidental US bombing attack. But we also mourn the lives of those ... who were mowed down by tanks in Tiananmen Square," the New York-based Free China movement said in a statement.

"(We accused) Beijing of cynically using anti-NATO demonstrations to whip up a new, dangerous wave of nationalism in China," the statement said, denying this meant the movement was unpatriotic.

China's official media used inflammatory and emotive language to encourage angry protests at the bombing, which killed three journalists and injured several others.

The government said it would support all "legal" demonstrations.

Thousands of people marched to the US and other NATO embassies, shouting anti-US slogans and hurling rocks, paint and petrol bombs at the embassy and besieging the ambassador.

After three days, the government sought to cool popular anger by publishing apologies by NATO leaders and urging students to return to the classroom to build a stronger China.

"We are challenging the government to permit pro-democracy activists across China ... to peacefully demonstrate for their fundamental human rights on June 4th," Free China Movement director Timothy Cooper said in the statement.

"That, more than anything else, will gain China the respect it desires before the world," he said.

The authorities have tightened political control and closed off Tiananmen Square for repairs ahead of the 10th anniversary of the crackdown on June 4th.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed when the army suppressed several weeks of peaceful student-led pro-democracy protests in 1989.

China refers to the bloodshed as "counter-revolutionary rebellion" or "political turmoil" and has never given an official estimate of the number who died.



LOAD-DATE: May 17, 1999

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