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Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Chinese press slams 'unpatriotic' dissidents

The American embassy in Beijing became a focus of protest

The official Chinese media has launched a rare attack on pro-democracy activists describing them as traitors and lacking in patriotism for their response to Nato's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

Kosovo: Special Report
The People's Daily newspaper said some dissidents who had warned that last week's protests in China were too nationalistic actually supported the Nato attack as a justified lesson for China.

The paper said that at a time when the Chinese people were showing "their invincible patriotic spirit", others, who it described as "extremist so-called democracy activists", had treacherously insulted China.

"As self-branded leaders and 'elite' of the so-called 'patriotic pro-democracy movement,' which country do you love?" the paper asked. "Do you still have any conscience or affection towards the land where you were raised and fed?"

[ image: US embassy staff have begun clearing up after the protests]
US embassy staff have begun clearing up after the protests
The BBC correspondent in Beijing, Duncan Hewitt, says China's state media hardly ever refers to the activities of the government's critics and almost never mentions the existence of a pro-democracy movement.

During last week's protest across China, some exiled dissident groups had warned that the Chinese Government would use the anti-Nato protests to stir up nationalism and distract from other social problems.

But another official newspaper, the China Youth Daily, retorted angrily that if the protests were a demonstration of Chinese nationalism, then China needed it.

Patriotic mood

[ image: The articles are thought to be related to the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown]
The articles are thought to be related to the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown
Observers say the articles appear to show that the government is determined to capitalise on the current patriotic mood and discredit the dissidents ahead next month's sensitive tenth anniversary of the crushing of the 1989 democracy protests.

A series of recent press articles have argued that Chinese young people have now seen through what they call US hypocrisy on the subjects of democracy and human rights.

Our correspondent says the government may also be keen to prevent any comparison of its response to the embassy bombing and its refusal to respond to demands for apologies from relatives of those killed in 1989.

Several activists are reported to have been detained last week after planning to distribute leaflets at the protests calling for a reassessment of the events of 1989.

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