Dropping A Brick......
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Mon Jan 3 23:07:42 MST 2000
December 31, 1999
For New Year's present, Beijing drops a brick
By David Rennie
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH
In what appears to be a diplomatic gaffe of epic proportions, China said
Thursday it would present pieces of paving stone from Tiananmen Square,
site of the 1989 massacre, to 170 world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth
and President Clinton.
BEIJING In what appears to be a diplomatic gaffe of epic proportions,
China said Thursday it would present pieces of paving stone from Tiananmen
Square, site of the 1989 massacre, to 170 world leaders, including Queen
Elizabeth and President Clinton.
The official Beijing Evening News, citing the Xinhua state news
agency, said 4-inch-wide slabs from the square where hundreds of students
died are to be presented to the heads of state of all countries with which
China has diplomatic relations by the Chinese Association for the Study of
Foreign ministries around the world immediately sought to confirm the
reports. Some said that, if true, it would be a diplomatic nightmare as it
would be next to impossible to accept such a gift.
British, French, German, U.S., South African and Indian officials all
said that neither their capitals, nor their Beijing embassies, had been
informed of their would-be year-2000 presents.
"This seems very odd to us," said one Western diplomat. "The Chinese
must know that this is bound to cause embarrassment. If it's true, we will
consult our allies and decide what to do. If the Chinese are trying to make
some point with this, it is just going to blow up in their faces."
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said officials were
unaware of the offer from the Chinese, but added: "We have criticized in
very strong terms the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and our position
on that has not changed."
Tiananmen Square is best remembered in the West as the site where the
tanks and machine guns of the People's Liberation Army crushed massive
democracy protests on June 4, 1989. Within China, it is the official heart
of the nation, where Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the founding of Communist
China in 1949.
Ross Munro, a former correspondent for Time magazine in Beijing and
author of the book "The Coming Conflict with China," said: "It is a
stunningly arrogant gesture.
"Apart from being very insensitive to the sensibilities of Western
countries, I think it could backfire on the Chinese because in some
countries, domestic organizations will urge their governments to use these
chunks to concentrate attention on a condemnation of the massacre."
The Beijing Evening News hailed the symbolic value of the paving
slabs, which have been cut into pieces about 5 inches long, 4 inches wide
and 1 inch thick.
The metric dimensions of the gifts 120mm by 96mm by 21mm signify
"how in the 21st century, China, with its population of 1.2 billion and its
land mass of 9.6 million square kilometers [3.8 million square miles] will
spread its wings and soar aloft like a mighty eagle," the newspaper explained.
The slabs have been polished, but still bear their rough upper
surface. The report did not make clear how or when the slabs would be
Slabs from Tiananmen Square became available earlier this year during
major repair works, in which the entire surface was relaid in pale granite.
Much of the paving from 1989 was removed shortly after the massacre, as
China sought to obliterate the signs of tank treads, fire and other signs
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