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China's Kosovo Problem
NATO missiles strike China's embassy
David McIntyre/Black Star for TIME
A stray NATO missile hits the wrong building in Belgrade and sets off angry protests in Beijing

Accidents happen. We know that from our everyday lives, also from watching wars on CNN. But if NATO missiles had to go astray over Belgrade, it's hard to imagine a worse target than the Chinese embassy. With the NATO military alliance trying to win broad international support for a plan to end the bloodshed in Yugoslavia and establish a Kosovo peacekeeping presence, the last thing it needs is an angry permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

But that's what it's got. While it is highly unlikely that NATO planes hit the embassy intentionally, many Chinese believe it was no accident. Beijing's official responses condemned the bombing as a "barbaric attack" and "a gross violation of Chinese sovereignty ... seldom seen in diplomatic history." At least three Chinese died in the bombing, including a pair of journalists. Another was missing, and more than 20 were hurt. The embassy compound, located near the Hotel Yugoslavia--which NATO did have in its sights--was hit before dawn on Saturday during one of the heaviest bombing attacks since the campaign began more than six weeks ago.

As news of the embassy blast spread through Beijing, a general sense of anger quickly erupted into action. More than a dozen "big-character" protest posters were tacked up to the walls at Peking University, traditionally a hotbed of student activism. On Saturday afternoon 3,000 students descended on the U.S. embassy, arriving in a convoy of buses from campuses outside the city center. They surrounded the compound and chanted angrily in unison. Hundreds of onlookers gathered, cheering them on. "The Americans have gone crazy," said Chen Feng, a Chinese photographer who chanced upon the protest.

The demonstrations quickly gathered steam, and rallies were reported in several other cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. In Chengdu, protesters set the American consul-general's home ablaze. In Beijing, several hundred students from one university raised their fists and shouted, in English: USA f--- off! They sang China's national anthem, unfurled banners condemning U.S. "imperialism" and screamed denunciations of Americans as the "new Nazis." One group burned a mock American flag; others threw bottles, rocks and tomatoes, shattering many embassy windows. "We'll keep protesting until the attitude of the U.S. changes," said Song Gang, a political-science major at Peking University. He held a banner that said pay back the debt in blood. Late Saturday a rougher group of demonstrators, including many workers, took to Beijing's streets. They attacked both the British and American embassies with chunks of concrete; many smashed diplomatic cars. Further rallies were held Sunday.

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May 17, 1999

Cover Story: Madeleine's War
She helped push the U.S. into Kosovo. It was part of the assertive, moralistic new world role she is urging for America. Here's a look behind the scenes as she struggles to make it work

In-depth analysis, polls, photo essays and more

Up-to-the-minute coverage

Is President Clinton's apology for bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade sufficient?

From Our Readers
What Clinton should have said in the wake of the bombing

This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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