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Communist Party moderates targeted for purge

By
MARK S. DEL VECCHIO

BEIJING -- Hard-line Chinese leaders have named up to seven moderates, including Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, as an anti-party faction to be purged for opposing martial law in Beijing and failing to check the democracy movement, Chinese and Western sources said Friday.

The Chinese sources and Western diplomats did not agree on the entire list, but concurred it included Zhao, Defense Minister Qin Jiwei and as many as five others.

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Zhao and Qin were believed to have been under a form of house detention all week but had not been formally arrested, Chinese sources said.

Word of what could be the biggest leadership purge in a decade came as students leading the democracy movement voted overwhelmingly to continue occupying Tiananmen Square despite the increased likelihood that the conservative leadership would order a crackdown.

Conservative Premier Li Peng, who resurfaced Thursday for the first time since the power struggle erupted and declared his government 'capable and stable,' appeared to be consolidating his authority.

The communist party newspaper People's Daily carried a statement Friday by the political department of the Beijing region's military command throwing its support behind the martial law decree issued Saturday by Li. The six other military commands surrounding the capital had issued similar statements earlier in the week.

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Western diplomats said the army moved more troops into the city's outskirts during the past few days. At least 80,000 soldiers were believed encircling the capital after failing in initial attempts last weekend to break through citizens' barricades, the diplomats said.

Li said Thursday the army had not stopped because it was unable to move but because it had been 'tolerant' of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in communist China since its founding in 1949.

The Western and Chinese sources said Zhao had been named as leading some form as 'anti-party clique' that was to be purged for opposing Li's decision to use troops in Beijing and for failing to check the students whose protests sparked nationwide demonstrations for freedom.

They pointed to the wording of the military statements supporting the martial law decree, noting the statements criticized a conspiracy by a 'small group of people.'

'At first we thought they meant the student leaders and those supporting them,' a Western intelligence source said. 'But it looks like they mean the people with Zhao and against martial law.'

Besides Zhao and Qin, the others believed to be on the list include Zhao's former secretary, Bao Tong, head of a Zhao-sponsored think tank on economic and political reforms, and Hong Xuezhi, a senior member of the National People's Congress, the parliament.

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Also in the group were Yan Mingfu and Wen Jiabao, both senior Central Committee members, and Du Runsheng, director of the party's rural policy research center, the sources said.

Zhao and Yan had tried to conciliate with the students, while the others were criticized for supporting or being too tolerant of the protests or of permitting coverage of the demonstrations in the official press, sources said.

Student leaders in Tiananmen Square, meanwhile, held a crucial all-night meeting that ended in a vote to continue their sit-in that began in earnest May 13.

As a local rock group blared away, 278 student leaders voted overwhelmingly to continue the sit-in, said Ji Cheng, a second-year political science student at Beijing University.

Of the votes cast, 152 favored continuing and taking more active measures such as a mass march on Communist Party headquarters. Eighty voted for opening talks with the government while remaining in the square, 38 supported issuing a final ultimatum with conditions to end the sit-in, and eight favored giving up the protest in exchange for assurances there would be no reprisals.

Li's appearance on television Thursday was the first sign conservatives had gained the upper hand.

In a meeting shown on government television, Li spoke for 30 minutes with recently arrived ambassadors of Mexico, Burma and Nigeria. Diplomats who attended the meeting said they were summoned to it unexpectedly with only a few hours' notice.

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Li assured the ambassadors the government was in control and that its political and economic reforms would remain in place.

'The Chinese government is capable and stable, and we are able to carry out our duties to solve the problems properly,' Li said.

He also took the opportunity to point out that senior leader Deng Xiaoping remained China's most powerful leader, saying, 'The standard-bearer of the reform and open policies is Comrade Deng Xiaoping, no one else.'

The reference was an obvious slap at Zhao, who as premier and then party general secretary for the past two years has been identified as the architect of many of the bolder reforms.

'It looks very grim for Zhao,' said a senior Western diplomat. 'His position is poor.'

Earlier, nearly 50,000 demonstrators, including Chinese-Americans and overseas Chinese students, marched for several hours around Tiananmen Square, calling for democracy but mainly demanding that Li step down. It was the smallest march in recent days.

Students protesting for greater political freedom have occupied central Tiananmen Square for 13 days in a virtual squatter encampment, remaining in spite of the unenforced martial law.

The State Council, which is headed by Li, issued an urgent order that provincial officials and police 'adopt forceful measures' to stem a stream of students from other cities entering the capital to join the protest begun by their Beijing peers.

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'Their influx in large numbers hinders efforts to end the turmoil and stabilize the nation,' the order was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying.

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