Thousands of Chinese on Bicycles Protest Censorship

Times Staff Writer

A group of about 5,000 students on bicycles rode through Beijing for six hours Wednesday, stopping for protest rallies at the headquarters of official news media outlets.

"Central Television turns black into white and truth into lies," the students shouted in front of the state-run television offices.

"The People's Daily cheats the people," they chanted at the gate of the official Communist Party newspaper. They burned a few copies of the paper to emphasize their dissatisfaction with its heavily censored coverage of the pro-democracy demonstrations that began in mid-April.

'Thank You, Police'

Police made no attempt to stop the procession and worked to shunt traffic away from the parade route. Students responded by swinging past police headquarters and chanting, "Thank you, police, for working for the people."

In Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, several thousand university students carried out a protest march and sit-in, according to the official New China News Agency. Taiyuan is about 250 miles southwest of Beijing.

A reporter for the Shanxi Daily told the Associated Press that 4,000 to 5,000 students took part and that their demands included a dialogue with the governor on the subject of corruption.

The Chinese news media, which had virtually ignored the student protests, began carrying somewhat more complete and accurate reports after May 4, when about 40,000 students and tens of thousands of supporters broke through police lines to carry out a pro-democracy rally in central Beijing's Tian An Men Square.

The official media also reported, with varying degrees of completeness and accuracy, the submission to the government on Tuesday of a petition signed by 1,013 Chinese journalists seeking greater press freedom.

However, the New China News Agency did not report Wednesday's demonstration in Taiyuan until late in the evening, and then it carried only two sentences about it.

The Communist Party general secretary, Zhao Ziyang, in remarks Wednesday that the news agency carried, emphasized the importance of political reform and said it must be carried out smoothly and steadily. His comments appeared to be aimed at channeling the students' demands to promote the moderate political reform that he has advocated for several years.

"Many difficulties that have cropped up in the course of the reform of the economic setup cannot possibly be overcome without a reform of the political setup," Zhao said. "But in a large, developing country like China, the reform of the political setup has to go steadily."

Zhao, who spoke to a visiting Bulgarian delegation, said that "building of the legal system and the development of democracy" are the main tasks of political reform, the news agency reported. When Chinese leaders speak of democracy in this context, they generally refer to such reforms as increased openness and dialogue. They do not mean a multi-party system or free elections.

More Investigative Reporting

The Chinese press, in a step forward for this type of reform, will be allowed to do more investigative reporting on corruption, a Ministry of Supervision spokesman announced in remarks reported Wednesday in the overseas edition of the People's Daily. The spokesman said the move was prompted by student demands for a crackdown on corruption.

Wednesday's student protest was broadened by the participation of about 50 writers, poets and novelists, who gathered separately and then mounted bicycles to join the procession.

The students "should not be allowed to stand alone," said Su Xiaokang, a leading essayist.

Some student leaders have said they oppose holding protests during the May 15-18 visit of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. However, others have said they plan to demonstrate.

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