BEIJING, JUNE 4 (MONDAY) -- Hundreds of Beijing University students, defying a ban on protests, staged an angry march on their campus just before midnight Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the crushing of the student-led democracy movement.
A humanities student who was active in the protests last year spoke to the demonstrators, calling on China's government to allow the creation of a popularly elected congress to supervise government activities. "Wild and savage autocrats have inherited power in China for thousands of years of our history," the student declared.
A witness said plainclothesmen tried to grab the student but that his colleagues fought them off. Early this morning, though, another student reported that the speechmaker had been detained.
The demonstration erupted late Sunday after scores of students hurled small bottles out of two Beijing University graduate-school dormitories.
The students' symbolic target was senior leader Deng Xiaoping. "Xiaoping" is a homonym for the words "small bottle." So breaking the glass was a taunt of the 85-year-old leader, who is regarded by many students as an emperor who has failed to keep his promise to retire from politics.
In the current repressive climate in Beijing, any student engaging in open anti-government protests risks arrest. Some Beijing University students are still under detention at a maximum-security prison north of Beijing as a result of last year's protests.
Throughout most of Beijing, both the police and the citizenry appeared to be tense, yet conflict for the most part was avoided. But the outburst at Beijing University showed that while the country's dissident forces are both dispersed and disorganized, there is still a potential for defiance.
Chinese authorities have spent months attempting to indoctrinate the students with pro-Communist propaganda and have warned them repeatedly not to engage in demonstrations. Members of the freshman class have been given a year's military training at an army academy far from the capital.
Authorities deployed thousands of armed policemen throughout Beijing Sunday to head off anti-government disturbances on the anniversary of the crackdown on the democracy movement.
Despite the massive display of force, citizens took part in separate, small, nonviolent incidents just outside Tiananmen Square, which was sealed off for the day. They managed to hoist a protest banner, scatter white paper money -- signifying mourning -- and say a silent prayer.
The police detained at least six persons, three following such incidents and another three at an "English corner" for young Chinese practicing their language skills at the Purple Bamboo Park in northwestern Beijing.
Police roughed up several Western reporters and briefly detained others near the university. Plainclothesmen pounced on Richard Ellis, an American photographer working for Reuter news agency. They pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the head, leaving the photographer bruised but apparently not seriously injured. He had attempted to photograph police seizing another cameraman, Bradley Simpson of CBS Television, who was not beaten.
Police roughed up several other reporters and pointed guns at some. About a dozen armed police seized and beat the Japanese wife of David Holley of the Los Angeles Times, leaving her bruised. Holley said he was pushed to the ground but not injured.
At Beijing University, which was in the vanguard of last year's protests, scores of graduate students participating in hurling the bottles shouted, "Rise up!"
In the 1970s, when Deng was contesting the leftist "Gang of Four" for power, his supporters showed their faith in him by displaying small bottles on their house fronts.
At the height of the university demonstration -- which by some accounts may have involved 1,000 students -- some burned newspapers in what they said was a memorial showing of smoke and fire for the hundreds who died when the army shot its way through protesters to reach Tiananmen Square last year. The army attack began on the night of June 3 and lasted into the early morning hours of June 4.
Students also sang "the Internationale," the international socialist movement's song that helped rally protesters last year in Tiananmen Square. A woman who was apparently on the staff of the university tried to get students who spilled out of the graduate dormitories Sunday night to go back to their rooms and calm down.
"We can't sleep tonight," several students shouted. "We have a right not to sleep." The protests at the university lasted for more than two hours, according to witnesses on campus. Police sealed off roads around the university and brought in reinforcements.
The witnesses said that by 1:30 a.m., the students began to calm down and by 2 were back in their dormitories. A number of students at the university said earlier that they were fasting for several days in memory of the victims of the crackdown of last June 3-4.
A number of students cycling, walking or jogging near Tiananmen Square Sunday wore all-white clothing -- an apparent sign of mourning.
Beijing University has a long tradition of leading protest movements. Its students took the lead in the May 4 Movement of 1919, in which students mobilized intellectuals to call for modernization and democracy.
Among those whom police detained as they sought to mark the anniversary near the square was a worker in his fifties who unfurled a banner in front of a Canadian television team. The yellow fabric proclaimed, "A New Philosophy." Two policemen seized the man and his banner fell to the ground as he was led away.
Late Sunday, after a rainstorm broke with thunder and lightning, a worker observing Tiananmen Square said, "Tonight it's raining. I think the ghosts of last year are crying."