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