Battered U.S. Embassy no longer under attack

Stars and Stripes lowered to half-staff as China mourns 3 bombing victims

War In Yugoslavia

May 13, 1999|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BEIJING -- U.S. Ambassador James R. Sasser finally walked out of his embassy yesterday morning after a four-day standoff with rock-throwing protesters, saying it would take at least a week to get the diplomatic post up and running again.

Sasser said an adjacent building housing the embassy's commercial office was destroyed. Across the street in the compound that contains the consulate were several cars crumpled from days of pummeling by demonstrators.

"The cars are unbelievable," Sasser said in a telephone interview. "I didn't know you could do that to sheet metal."

Second quiet night

For the second night in a row, the streets of the capital's embassy district remained quiet and empty. Hundreds of police still manned roadblocks, checking identification cards and turning Chinese away.

The day began with the return of the remains of the three Chinese journalists killed Friday in NATO's mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital.

Family members stepped off an Air China jet carrying framed photos of their loved ones draped with black ribbons and carrying their ashes in boxes. Some of the 20 injured in the attack were lowered from the plane on hospital gurneys.

"I welcome your return on behalf of the government and the State Council," said Vice President Hu Jintao as he shook the heavily bandaged hand of one of the victims whose head was wrapped in gauze.

After the arrival of the remains, China's top leaders expressed condolences at a televised memorial service. Dressed in black suits, white shirts and black ties, they praised the victims as martyrs and tried to comfort their tearful family members. Premier Zhu Rongji, the nation's famously tough economic reformer, wept as he shook hands with relatives.

Sasser, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, had been scheduled to leave his job this spring, but had remained on to accompany Zhu to the United States last month.

Sasser said it was disheartening to see three years of effort trying to build better Sino-U.S. relations damaged by such a tragic mistake.

"I've worked very hard on this relationship," he said. "To have this sort of totally unexpected setback is really disappointing."

As he left the embassy, Sasser walked past a wreath of paper flowers -- a traditional Chinese symbol of mourning -- and piles of rocks and plastic bottles hurled by protesters.

Husband and wife

The three Chinese killed in Belgrade were Shao Yunhuan, 48, of the state Xinhua News Agency, and Xu Xinghu, 31, and his wife, Zhu Ying, 27, both of the Guang-ming Daily, a national newspaper.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Vice President Hu, and four other members of the senior Communist leadership went first to Xinhua and then to Guangming Daily to pay respects.

Flags on government buildings and in Beijing's Tiananmen Square were lowered to half-staff, as were American flags at the U.S. Embassy and consulates and the national flags of other diplomatic missions throughout China.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder arrived earlier yesterday for a one-day visit to urge Chinese support for a Kosovo peace plan drafted last week by the seven leading industrialized nations and Russia. Like U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials, Schroeder apologized for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/13/99

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