U.S. envoy rebukes China rights protesters

December 03, 1990|By Seattle Times

SEATTLE -- The U.S. ambassador to China startled demonstrators protesting human rights abuses by the Chinese government by calling them "cowards" and telling one of them, a Tibetan, to "go back to China."

Ambassador James Lilley was going to speak at the closing ceremonies Saturday of a four-day trade exposition and symposium on U.S.-China relations.

Cars carrying Mr. Lilley and Zhu Quizhen, China's ambassador to the United States, pulled up near a side door of Seattle's Union Station, rather than at the front entrance, where about 50 demonstrators were protesting the Chinese government's slaying of demonstrators in Beijing in 1989 and its 40-year domination of Tibet.

Jim Berman, 32, of Seattle, who works for the Census Bureau and is married to a Tibetan, said he and a half-dozen other protesters had left the main group in front of the building on the chance that the ambassadors might use a different entrance.

As the diplomats arrived, the demonstrators chanted: "China -- human rights!" "Tibet for Tibetans!" and "Remember Tiananmen Square!" Mr. Berman said.

Mr. Zhu ignored the demonstrators and went inside.

But, Mr. Berman said, and the KIRO-TV videotape corroborated, Mr. Lilley suddenly shouted, "Were you at Tiananmen Square? I was there."

"So what?" Mr. Berman said he shouted back.

The ambassador then yelled to a Tibetan man, "What are you doing about it? I'm doing something about it. You should go back to China and serve China."

"You're cowards," Mr. Lilley told the demonstrators before entering the building.

When asked about the incident after his speech, Mr. Lilley said, "I looked at one man from China and thought that the best thing he could do to help his country is to go back to China and work for it."

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