Troops Roll Through Beijing to Crush Protesters
BEIJING -- Scores and possibly hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more wounded as tens of thousands of well-armed troops smashed through the heart of Beijing into Tiananmen Square early today wresting control of the city center from angry prodemocracy demonstrators.
Many of the 300,000 protesters flooding the streets when the assault began used makeshift weapons to try to stop the troops from reaching Tiananmen, where they were ordered to crush violently an unprecedented student democracy movement that China's hard-line leaders could not quell by other means. For the first time in six weeks of protests, troops used deadly force and left bleeding bodies sprawled in the streets as they pushed through throngs of people to reach the square.
By 7:40 a.m., when government authorities announced over Tiananmen Square's loudspeakers that the "rebellion has been suppressed and the soldiers are now in charge of Tiananmen," most of the people on the street had retreated into their homes and few, if any, students remained in the square. A group of several hundred protesters continued to fight soldiers on a street just east of the square, but it appeared that army had taken control of the capital. Fires burned in several places in the city, including in the square, where a 33-foot-high statue of democracy erected by the students was set aflame.
It was unclear how many people had been killed and injured because victims were taken to a number of hospitals. Some reports placed the number of fatalities at several hundred.
A doctor at Beijing's Youdian Hospital estimated that at least 500 people died in the clashes, the Associated Press reported. State-run radio and television acknowledged some deaths without giving numbers and said: "It was necessary to undertake that action to save lives and property."
Government-run television said more than 1,000 soldiers had been injured.
Pandemonium erupted when the assault began late Saturday night with troops firing automatic weapons at protesters in the streets, shooting indiscriminately in some areas. While the People's Liberation Army was warmly welcomed 40 years ago when it triumphantly entered Beijing without a shot, today it met resistance every step of the way from a citizenry that has lost faith in the Communist Party and its leaders.