A young man trying to take flowers from a wreath commemorating the late premier Chou En-lai in Peking's Tienanmen Square was beaten tonight by several men.
The incident occurred about 11 p.m. after hundreds of wreaths in honor of the third anniversary of Chou's death, which is Monday, had been placed around the square's Monument to the People's Heroes. Only about 150 persons remained in the area, looking at wreaths and poems stuck on the monument base, although 2,000 to 3,000 had gathered in the area earlier in the day.
As about 30 men looked at the largest of the wreaths, a young man pulled two white paper flowers out of the wire mesh and began to walk away. An older man stopped him and asked. "Where are you going with those?"
The young man, who seemed to have some difficulty speaking, did not answer but walked back to the wreath. Two men yelled at him, "You're a Gang of Four man," referring to the purged Peking clique that caused a riot in April 1976 by prematurely removing wreaths honoring Chou from the same monument. Three or four men punched and kicked the young man several times, and he walked away again, holding the side of his head.
A small crowd following him back and forth across the portion of the square near the monument, forcing him to pur back the paper flowers one by one and occasionally striking him. At one point, he dropped to his knees, but then got up and finally walked away. The crowd returned to the monument.
One man in the crowd, asked to explain the incident, said, "I think he's sick in the head." The Tienanmen riot of 1976 resulted in injuries to several militiamen and bystanders who angered a crowd that was protesting the removal of the wreaths. A soldier patrolling the monument area with rifle and fixed bayonet last night did not try to stop the beating.
The current Chinese leadership, mostly proteges of the late premier, has not discouraged the placing of wreaths at the monument during the last two days. Chinese television tonight showed a program commemorating Chou's death. A large poster near the monument, written by Peking high school students, suggested a popular park called Bei Hai be renamed Chou En-lai Park.
Two authors of a recent wallposter calling for various political reforms in China told two foreign journalists today that many people will gather in the square at 2 p.m. Monday to commemorate Chou and discuss human rights.