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An Unusual Debate In China

President Clinton's assertion that the 1989 killings in Tiananmen Square were wrong sparked what became a dramatic, impromptu debate carried live on Chinese television.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports that the exchange was remarkable for the very fact that the Chinese allowed it to happen - and on nationwide television. China's rulers seldom discuss the bloody crackdown of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in front of their own people. reports on President Clinton's trip to China

The differences between the two nations came into sharp focus.

Asked about Beijing's detention of pro-democracy dissidents in Xian as Mr. Clinton's tour began, Chinese President Jiang said Clinton raised the issue during their talks Saturday.

Mr. Clinton clearly expressed his disapproval Friday.

On Saturday, he remained firm on the issue, but did not go into detail during a joint press conference with the Chinese leader. "I made my views known about the recent detentions yesterday," President Clinton said.

President Jiang defended the arrests, explaining that most of those dissidents were security risks.

"Any law-breaking activities must be dealt with according to law," he said.

President Clinton praised the fact that the issue was even discussed.

"You can see that neither one of us are shy about being strong about how we believe about this," Mr. Clinton said.

Without being asked, President Jiang insisted that the accusations that China had contributed to American political campaigns were false.

"I really think it very absurd and ridiculous, and I think they are sheer fabrications," he said.

Asked by his Chinese host several times if he had anything to add, Mr. Clinton summed it up: "Our friendship may never be perfect. No friendship is. But I hope it will last forever."

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