BEIJING -- Chinese reacted with outrage Monday to the
collision of a U.S. Navy plane and a Chinese fighter jet, and some
demanded that authorities seize the American plane or imprison its
24 crew members.
In interviews on the street and in comments posted online,
Chinese urged their government to resist what they see as U.S.
bullying. The EP-3 surveillance plane is being held at an island
air base in the South China Sea as U.S. diplomats try to gain its
Few Chinese seemed to doubt the official explanation blaming the
American plane. Some said the government should use the aircraft
and its crew to extract U.S. concessions. Others said the plane
should be dissected to learn its high-tech secrets.
The US says the plane was on a routine mission
''America is too despotic,'' said one young man with
shoulder-length hair wearing fashionable khakis and a bright
windbreaker. ''China needs to take a hard line on this.''
''We can't not take action. If they want to fight a war, we'll
give them a war,'' said another young man walking to work in a
Western-style business suit.
Both men declined to give their names.
Most young Chinese are nationalistic and, despite a fondness for
American pop culture, see the United States as an obstacle on
China's path to superpower status.
Official media cheered Chinese basketball star Wang Zhizhi's
departure last week to play in the United States. But other reports
denounced possible U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the island democracy
that China considers its territory.
Although the government seemed to be weighing its options
Monday, some said the strong public reaction could push it to take
a harder line.
Many recalled the NATO bombing of China's embassy in Yugoslavia
two years ago. That sparked mass anti-U.S. protests in cities
across China. Most Chinese refused to accept Washington's
explanation that the bombing was unintended.
In Hong Kong, demonstrators organized by a pro-Beijing labor
group gathered outside the U.S. consulate in a loud but peaceful
protest blaming the United States for the collision.
About 100 people shouted that the United States had ''invaded
our country's air space and knocked down our fighter jet,'' and
they accused the Americans of being too cowardly to face up to it.
Web surfers left messages on the People's Daily's ''Strong
Country'' chat site urging the government to keep the plane as a
bargaining chip. One writer, using the pseudonym ''Love or Not
Love,'' said the plane's crew should be put in a prisoner-of-war
''If the Chinese government shows weakness again in handling the
collision, it will arouse strong dissatisfaction among Chinese
people,'' said one posting, signed ''Trouble Maker.''
Others called for caution.
One warned against protests like 1999, saying those ultimately
hurt China. A more ''mature response'' would protect China's
interests and win greater benefits, said the writer, who used the
pen name ''Pigtail.''
Public anger may have been even more extreme because state media
haven't reported U.S. offers to help search for the Chinese pilot
who Beijing says crashed in the sea.
One posting signed ''zrf197962'' on the popular sina.com
chat-room expressed admiration for the missing pilot, saying he
stood up to American ''hegemony.''