China Cuts Back Forces in Beijing : Semblance of Normalcy Returns Two Weeks After Clashes

Times Staff Writer

Convoys of military trucks and armored personnel carriers rumbled out of Beijing on Monday, leaving a reduced contingent of soldiers to patrol the city and restoring a semblance of normalcy two weeks after the army crushed a student-led protest with bloody force.

But the repressive atmosphere of martial law still festered in the capital as authorities expelled yet another Western journalist and vowed to continue a campaign to arrest and punish "rioters" implicated in the pro-democracy movement.

A session of the National People's Congress scheduled to be convened today to take up student-instigated demands for democratic reforms has been postponed indefinitely, the Associated Press reported. Students occupying Tian An Men Square had vowed to remain in place there until the Congress met, but they were driven off by tanks and gunfire on the night of June 3-4.

The Public Security Bureau decided Monday to expel Joseph F. Kahn, an American free-lance reporter who contributes articles to the Dallas Morning News. Kahn was arrested a week ago in rural Daxing County, outside Beijing, while interviewing peasants and was forced to write a self-criticism.

The New China News Agency said in a dispatch that Kahn, identified as an "American tourist," violated martial law by spreading "demagogic rumors" during the interviews and engaged in "activities incompatible with his status." He was give 72 hours to leave the country.

"They told me I had agitated peasants to oppose the Chinese government," Kahn said in a telephone interview. "I emphatically deny the charge."

Kahn is the sixth Western journalist to be ordered out of China in the crackdown after the military blitz. All but two entered China on tourist visas, as have scores of other reporters during the last month, after the government indicated that it would not issue journalist visas.

China's state-controlled media kept up the drumbeat of propaganda aimed at discrediting the demonstrators and intimidating a public who, until the crackdown, appeared to give wide support to the aims of the protest.

Premier Li Peng and two other key members of the powerful Politburo standing committee were shown on China Central Television's evening news broadcast consoling the relatives of three "martyrs" among the soldiers who also died during the drive on the center of the city. Crowds angered by the slaughter in and around Tian An Men fought back and killed an unknown number of soldiers.

Western diplomats estimate that hundreds and maybe thousands of people died battling the troops during the onslaught, while the government insists only about 200 people died, half of them soldiers and none of them on the square. It has portrayed the largely peaceful protest movement as a counter-revolutionary rebellion aimed at toppling Communist Party rule.

"Quite a lot of rioters are yet to be apprehended, and we can in no way leave them unpunished and let them stage a comeback," Li told the relatives. "Anyone who had conducted beating, looting and robbery or participated in murdering soldiers and police, no matter (if) he is a student or not, will be dealt with without mercy."

Awaiting Appeals' Results

So far, courts in Beijing and Shanghai have sentenced 10 men and one woman to death for violence connected with the protests. They are awaiting the results of appeals against their sentences. More than 1,200 others have been arrested, including 128 "rebels" who surrendered themselves to police as of Saturday, according to the New China News Agency.

State radio reported Monday that among those detained were two labor activists, leaders of the pro-democracy Beijing Autonomous Workers Union, who led a protest rally in front of a police station May 28. Three others in their group had been arrested earlier.

Tension was reduced somewhat, at least on the surface, when convoys of more than 100 trucks carried troops away from central Beijing on Monday, apparently to army camps on the outskirts of the city. About 20 armored personnel carriers that had been parked on Tian An Men Square, covered with tarpaulins, also rolled out in the troop withdrawal, which started before dawn and continued into the evening. Tanks left the city during an earlier stage of the pullout.

High Profile Maintained

The number of soldiers guarding the square appeared to have been cut considerably, with only a few score in sight. But sentries toting AK-47 automatic rifles maintained a high profile along Changan Avenue, the city's main east-west corridor, and around the diplomatic compounds and foreign embassies. About 120,000 to 150,000 troops are believed to be deployed around the capital to enforce martial law.

The theme of life gradually returning to normal in the capital is gaining prominence these days, as officials attempt to project an image of stability to calm the population and reassure foreigners that it is safe to return here and continue to do business with China.

Workers have scrubbed and disinfected the square and Monday they were repairing and painting railings on its edge.

Tourism, in fact, has dried up in the wake of the bloodshed. Occupancy rates in the major hotels are in the 10% to 30% range, while airlines are canceling scheduled services.

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