Chinese Leaders Hold Reins on Anti-U.S. Protests
Leicester, John, The Florida Times Union
BEIJING -- In unleashing indignant crowds of stone-throwing students on the U.S. Embassy, Chinese leaders have allowed the nation to vent some deeply felt anger. But they have also taken a risk.
Since crushing massive pro-democracy demonstrations on Tiananmen Square 10 years ago, Chinese leaders have forbidden large-scale protests, fearing they could quickly spiral out of control.
But stopping people from demonstrating after NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on Saturday could have been just as hazardous: Emotions could have turned against the government, which might have looked weak and out-of-touch with the public mood.
"We're just coming out here to smash up some bricks to show our anger," said a protesting worker, who only gave his surname, Wang. "We wish our officials would be stronger."
In opting to allow protests, Chinese leaders also put in certain controls. It's mostly students who have been allowed to march on the U.S. and British embassies, not ranks of burly workers that police would have found harder to handle.
Authorities ferried students on buses to the embassy district, and police allowed them to hurl rocks and smash cars -- but prevented anyone from storming the embassy gates.
It's hard to see a bright future for U.S.-China relations. The bombing of the Chinese Embassy, which killed three people, and the subsequent protests in Beijing and torching of a U.S. consulate in southwest China come on top of a wide range of problems between Beijing and Washington.
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