China and Serbia commemorate victims of 1999 U.S. bombing in Belgrade
Aljosa Milenkovic in Belgrade
Every year on May 7, people come to the site to lay flowers and pay respect to the victims. /CGTN
Every year on May 7, people come to the site to lay flowers and pay respect to the victims. /CGTN

Every year on May 7, people come to the site to lay flowers and pay respect to the victims. /CGTN

On May 7, 1999, Serbia and China marked the 24th anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It was back in 1999, when two U.S. B2 stealth bombers dropped high precision bombs over Belgrade which destroyed the embassy and killed three Chinese nationals, all of whom were journalists. 

It happened during the 78-day-long NATO bombing campaign in the then Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro. 


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The location of the 1999 Chinese embassy now houses the Chinese Cultural Center. 

In front of it are a couple of small monuments where every year on May 7, people come to lay flowers and pay respect to the victims, like Chen Hui who teaches Chinese to Serbian students, and her mother, who just arrived from China. 

But the first ones to honor the victims each year are the Chinese embassy staff.


'I'll never be able to forget'

Chen Bo, the current Chinese ambassador in Serbia, was an embassy official in Belgrade back in 1999. She was in the embassy when the bombs struck the building. She finds it difficult to visit the site of the tragedy.

"Today, we all come here to see the newly completed building of the Chinese Cultural Center, but every time I come here, what I see in my eyes will still be the scene of the bombing of the Chinese embassy that night," Ambassador Chen said. "The instantaneous brutal loss of life of your partners, something I will never be able to forget and dare not forget in my lifetime."

Among those who came here at this year's anniversary was Zoran Gajic, once a famous volleyball coach, now Serbian Sports Minister. While talking to journalists, he was cautious in expressing the Serbian frustration about the 1999 NATO bombing.

"These criminals have cowardly killed women, children, and journalists," Gajic said. "This wasn't the frontline. And they weren't brave enough to come down to Pastrik and Kosare in Kosovo to fight our soldiers. Instead, they killed their women and children, and our Chinese friends back then."


'A horrible image'

The original footage from that night shows the scale of the devastation, a man with a bloodied face is clearly visible. It is Ljubisa Ristic, a theater director who was a frequent embassy guest back then.

"I came here, and I saw a horrible image. Dead and wounded were being taken out of the embassy," Ljubisa told CGTN. "The big part of what the Chinese people feel towards Serbia and the Serbian people towards China comes from that joint misfortune that happened here over 20 years ago," he added.

An estimated 2,500 civilians were killed during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, including the three Chinese nationals killed on May 7.


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