PROTESTING CHINESE BURN U.S. CONSULATE.
Protesters broke into and severely burned a U.S. consulate building in southwest China in the worst attack yet in two days of protests outside U.S. buildings across China, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said today.
A large number of people broke into the consulate compound in Chengdu and severely burned the consulate general's residence, said Tom Cooney, an embassy spokesman in Beijing.
No U.S. staffers were injured and Chinese police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, he said. The demonstrators were protesting the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.
Cooney also said that U.S. officials in Beijing, where the embassy was surrounded by protesters again today, were not getting adequate protection.
``We feel that we are under a state of siege here. We don't have adequate security,'' he said. The embassy had made a strong protest to Chinese authorities Saturday to provide better protection.
``We don't have the ability to move between our buildings like we should,'' Cooney said.
All U.S. diplomatic offices in China, except in Hong Kong, would be closed Monday and Tuesday, Cooney said.
The communist government generally bans protests for fear they will escalate into unrest. But officials apparently felt that stopping people from publicly expressing outrage over the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia could further inflame them and possibly turn emotions against the government.
More than 20 were injured and one person was missing in Belgrade, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said. A Xinhua reporter and two reporters for a national newspaper, Guangming Daily, were killed, it said.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said NATO forces mistakenly hit the embassy with ``precision guided munitions.'' He said NATO offered ``sincere regrets'' to Chinese authorities.
On Saturday, U.S. officials in Beijing advised staff and other Americans in the Chinese capital ``to raise their security awareness,'' said spokesman Bill Palmer. An embassy notice said there was ``the possibility for acts of retaliation against Americans and American interests worldwide.''
Students said they were outraged because they believed NATO intentionally targeted the Belgrade structure.
Protesters at the Chengdu consulate Saturday night scaled walls and broke windows to break in to the building, he said. Police dispersed the crowd only after they had ransacked the building.
``It was scary and there was a lot of damage,'' he said.
On Saturday and today, more than 1,000 protesters in Beijing hurled rocks and lumps of concrete at embassy buildings and cars in Beijing. Demonstrators also protested outside the British Embassy.
Not since the government crushed democracy protests at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, have students and other Chinese marched through Beijing streets in large numbers with banners and slogans.
Police pushed back demonstrators Saturday night when they tried to ram a van and hurl a burning American flag through the U.S. Embassy's main gate.
Windows at the American compound were broken, and at least four cars belonging to staff members were smashed. A group of protesters tried to ignite one car and then started shoving police who stopped them.
Police stood in cordons at least six people deep in front of the main embassy building to keep crowds back. Demonstrators broke through at least once.
Early today, another wave of buses - apparently arranged by universities - arrived with more students.
Hundreds of police regulated the flow of protesters but did not stop the demonstrations. Signs along the protest route today showed demonstrators which way to march.
The demonstrations in Guangzhou, a large city in southern China, involved tens of thousands of students from more than 10 universities who converged Saturday on the U.S., British, French, Italian and Dutch consulates, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
PHOTO Protesters gesture outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Others in Chengdu broke into a consulate compound and burned a building.
Lan Hongguang/Xinhua News Agency