Pekingers show courage beyond belief

447 words
5 June 1989
Reuters News
(c) 1989 Reuters Limited

PEKING, June 5, Reuter – Angry citizens of Peking are fighting against tanks and machineguns with medieval weapons, fists and a courage that defies belief.

Many are not merely risking their lives, but seem to be offering their bodies to bullets as if in some ritual blood sacrifice.

When the People’s Liberation Army stormed into central Peking in the early hours of Sunday, it seemed terror would silence all opposition. Instead, crowds including old ladies and courting couples poured out of their homes to chant "bandits" at the troops.

On Tiananmen Square, members of the "dare-to-die brigade" — young single workers who had pledged to defend student demonstrators to the death — armed themselves with puny clubs and rocks on Saturday night before troops turned the area into a killing field.

Witnesses saw a busload of protesters charging towards the square even after the troop invasion, saying they intended to rescue the injured. Under heavy machinegun fire, the bus finally ground to a halt riddled with bullets.

Two days later, the people keep coming.

A Western witness described hundreds of defiant cyclists repeatedly edging towards the soldiers and tanks occupying the square on Monday chanting "animals, animals" despite bursts of gunfire which felled several.

When troops later advanced in a bid to clear the Avenue of Eternal Peace of angry citizens, a lone man emerged from bushes and stood with arms outstretched before the advancing tank muzzles, at the last moment leaping onto the snout of one.

He was dragged off by soldiers into a sidestreet and did not re-emerge.

Further to the east, yards from the main diplomatic quarter, demonstrators repeatedly dashed out to rebuild flimsy roadblocks crushed by tanks, braving sporadic bursts of machinegun fire.

Others cycled cheekily within 30 feet (10 metres) of the end of the military convoys.

One Western diplomat described seeing a solitary man crouching behind a bush laboriously making a petrol bomb in the early hours of Monday as an army convoy passed yards away from him. He finally made a direct hit on a tank.

According to Chinese witnesses, a mob in southwest Peking lynched an army officer and left his corpse hanging from a bridge. There have also been cases of students sheltering captured soldiers from the wrath of other citizens.

Mainly the hatred of troops has brought a solidarity. "There has never been a unity among Peking people as there is now," said one old man.

"We cannot cry any more. It is too evil for tears," said a young woman shortly after troops shot two people dead near her home. "We can only fight and try to tell the world."

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