BEIJING -- China's leadership puzzle began to fall into place Friday with the reappearance of Communist patriarch Deng Xiaoping, who endorsed last weekend's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators but promised that economic reforms will continue.
China's state-run television showed Deng, 84, looking frail but animated, presiding over a meeting at Zhongnanhai, the red-walled leadership compound in central Beijing. He was flanked by conservative allies and a host of army generals.
'Small Number' Accused
Deng, who had been away from public view for three weeks, said the crackdown against student protesters centered at Tian An Men Square was needed to defend Communist rule in China. He accused a "very small number of people" of "attempting to overthrow the Communist Party, topple the socialist system and subvert the People's Republic of China to establish a bourgeois republic."
Deng sat at a round table in the company of hard-line Premier Li Peng and a group of octogenarian revolutionary leaders including President Yang Shangkun. Across a large bouquet of flowers sat an array of army generals, among them Defense Minister Qin Jiwei, rumored to have been in disfavor for opposing the May 20 imposition of martial law in Beijing.
Deng said that in crushing what he called a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" last weekend, an action that resulted in hundreds or perhaps thousands of civilian deaths, the People's Liberation Army had proven that it "is always the defender of the state, the socialist system and the people's interests." He described the army as "the bastion of iron of the state."
Deng also stressed, however, that China will continue the basic policies of economic reform and openness to the outside world implemented under his direction over the past decade.
"This incident has impelled us to think over the future as well as the past sober-mindedly," he said. "It will enable us to carry forward our cause more steadily, better and even faster and correct our mistakes faster."
He stressed that his formula for China's economic modernization--tight political control combined with market-oriented reforms--should undergo no basic change.
"However, we should seriously sum up our experience and carry on what is right, correct the errors and make great efforts to improve what is unsatisfactory," he said.
In further confirmation of the eclipse of the more liberal wing of the Communist Party, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and Politburo Standing Committee member Hu Qili, the two highest-ranking reformist leaders, were absent. No mention was made of them. They are presumed to be under detention.
TV Attack on Dissident
State-run television news broadcast Friday evening a bitter attack on astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, China's most prominent advocate of democratic reform, who together with his wife, Beijing University physics professor Li Shuxian, has been allowed by the American government to take refuge at the U.S. Embassy here.
The attack, which came in the form of an alleged telephone call from a citizen to a martial-law reporting center, can be viewed as an expression of official policy. It for the first time directly accused Fang of responsibility for the pro-democracy protests that provoked the current crisis.
"When we heard the broadcast that Fang Lizhi had taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy, we were extremely angry," the statement said. "This kind of a criminal who sells out his country absolutely must not be allowed to escape. . . . He aroused the students, instigated this rebellion and so many people have died. Now he runs away. . . . You absolutely must punish him."
With hard-liners in clear control, Beijing took on more of the look of a city fully under martial law Friday. Troops that had been concentrated in just a few locations within the bounds of the once-walled old city fanned out over larger areas, with small groups of soldiers guarding a growing number of intersections, bridges and streets.
Soldiers swept away debris left when citizens, angered by the army's bloody assault, set up road blocks and burned army vehicles, public buses and trucks. Bus and bicycle traffic was allowed, for the first time since Saturday, along Changan Avenue past the north side of Tian An Men Square.
The square was still full of trucks and dozens of tanks as it continued to serve as the focal point of military occupation.
On main streets, army trucks equipped with loudspeakers and machine guns broadcast appeals for calm.
Soldiers took up positions outside the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-run think tank that is strongly associated with the reform-minded Zhao. At the height of the recent seven-week wave of pro-democracy agitation, banners sharply criticizing Premier Li and martial law were hung from academy windows.
Symbolized Free Inquiry
The academy also symbolized Zhao's view that intellectuals should be given free rein to work toward China's modernization, uninhibited by political dogma and reproach.
Scholars and students at the social sciences academy and university campuses feared the imposition of new restrictions and the possibility of arrests. Unconfirmed reports circulated that some students from Beijing University have already been detained.
The Friday evening television news reported arrests of "counter-revolutionaries, anti-social elements, rumormongers, arsonists and anti-government sloganeers" in various cities, including Shanghai, Wuhan and Harbin.
It showed a department store and surrounding buildings burned in the southwestern city of Chengdu, where days of protests have been reported, and protesters throwing stones in the southeastern city of Changsha. Arrests were also reported in Guiyang, Zhengzhou and Lanzhou.
In Shanghai, where a large crowd gathered to mourn six protesters killed by a train, the television news said that streets were cleared of buses overturned by protesters or parked across roads.
New martial-law regulations were announced for Beijing that banned "writing, printing or posting banners, big-character posters or slogans of any kind against the government."
Warned to Avoid Night Trips
Little shooting was heard on the streets Friday. Nonetheless, the Foreign Ministry warned diplomats that "going out at night should be avoided." It appeared that night street patrols were being stepped up.
Late Friday evening, 71 tanks and 49 armored personnel carriers, plus some command cars and other vehicles, roared out of Tian An Men Square and left the central part of the city, heading east. Another large convoy rolled through the western part of the city, its destination unknown.
Most of the 27th Army, which was the unit mainly responsible for the weekend carnage, seems to have been moved out of Beijing and replaced by other units not directly involved in the killings.
The lineup of officials gathered for Deng's speech left little doubt that the top leadership of China is sufficiently united to handle any opposition, at least in the short run.
Appearing together with Deng, who as chairman of the Central Military Commission functions as commander in chief of the armed forces, were a number of elderly leaders who appear to have reasserted their influence. They included former President Li Xiannian, one-time Beijing Mayor Peng Zhen and Vice President Wang Zhen.
Also present was Qiao Shi, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee who seems to be a leading candidate to replace Zhao as the party's general secretary, and Vice Premier Yao Yilin. The only leader present who is viewed as fully committed to rapid economic and political reform was Wan Li, chairman of the National People's Congress.
The large military presence at the meeting--dozens of generals sat in rows behind the round table--appeared to indicate a growing military role in government after a decade of eclipse.
An Asian diplomat who watched the television broadcast of Deng's meeting with political and military leaders said it appeared that "the whole goal is to show the army is united."
Army Had Seemed Split
At one point during the week, it seemed as if the army was badly split over the attack on Tian An Men. Reports of factional divisions and even clashes among units were widespread.
With the military aspect of the current crisis apparently resolved, it may never be known for certain whether what seemed only a few days ago to be the threat of civil war was real, or part of an orchestrated show with veiled political purposes, this diplomat said.
"How would one ever know?" he said. "It's very easy to get the feeling of having been had, at various points."
It seems clear, however, that China will seek to carry on its policies of welcoming foreign investment and expanding trade with other countries.
"I think there will be an attempt to get over it--to say, 'Look, it's over. It's a bad thing. It's behind us,' " the diplomat said. "I don't know how the rest of the world will look at it or what the reaction will be."
Rampaging Students Shown
The government's continuing propaganda campaign, aimed at justifying martial law, became more elaborate Friday. Once again, television film footage was shown of rampaging students burning military vehicles. There has yet to be a single depiction of civilian death or injury in the military's brutal attack on Tian An Men Square and surrounding streets. No soldier has been shown firing a weapon.
Student "witnesses" interviewed by state-run television said that everyone left Tian An Men Square alive.
A soldier was videotaped helping a little old lady across the street. White-gloved soldiers also staged a flag-raising ceremony in Tian An Men Square to the strains of China's national anthem.
Street scenes showing buses running for the first time in six days, shoppers going into stores and cyclists were all depicted as examples of how normal life is returning to Beijing.
But normal life had yet to return. The three main commercial streets of the city--Xidan, Wangfujing and Qianmen streets--were uncrowded. Most stores remained closed, as did restaurants and factories.
University campuses were mainly deserted. Students had fled for their safety even though final examinations were supposed to take place this month.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun