BEIJING, June 9, 1989 (UPI) - Hard-line Premier Li Peng, apparently in control of the government, appeared in public Thursday for the first time since the bloody suppression of the democracy movement, and authorities signaled the start of a wide-ranging crackdown on students and other activists.
At least one student movement leader was reported detained. Chinese and Western sources said security forces were poised for mass detentions, and telephone numbers were announced on television for people to inform on student and worker activists.
A curfew was slapped on the university district Thursday night as at least five military trucks jammed with soldiers rolled past Beijing University and paramilitary police set up checkpoints leading to the area.
With the city still under martial law, more Americans and other foreigners fled Beijing by special flights in a continuing exodus.
The government also filed a strong protest with U.S. Ambassador James Lilley over the embassy's granting of refuge to astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, China's most prominent dissident blamed for masterminding the democracy movement.
Lilley, interviewed by CBS News, refused to comment on the dissident's whereabouts and was clearly perturbed by the State Department's decision to reveal Fang was staying at the Embassy. ''That's the State Department's business,'' Lilley snapped. ''If they have all the answers, ask them.''
The possibility of a widespread security sweep contrasted sharply with a dramatic reduction of tension on city streets as the army unit blamed for last weekend's assault on Beijing and hundreds of deaths began pulling back and signs of normal life re-emerged.
Western military analysts said troop movements during the day appeared designed to relieve the 27th Army, which launched the bloody assault on student-led protesters during the weekend, and replace it with other units whose presence is less inflammatory.
Hospitals have confirmed more than 300 dead in the weekend violence, but estimates put fatalities in the thousands. The government's initial reports set the death toll at nearly 300, with more than 7,000 soldiers and civilians wounded.
On Thursday, large numbers of soldiers remained on city streets, cordoning off some and maintaining an encampment in central Tiananmen Square, which students had occupied last month. Many blockades, however, had been lifted and traffic began moving.
On Qianmen Street south of Tiananmen Square, hundreds of troops staged a show-of-force march with bayonets fixed on automatic rifles to the commands of an officer barking through a megaphone. Crowds lined the streets to watch in unusual silence.
There were few reports of gunfire on the quietest day since last weekend's bloodshed. But during the evening a group of paramilitary police fired outside the Jianguo Hotel in the eastern part of the city, sending several foreign journalists diving for cover.
It was not known if the shots were deliberately aimed at the tourist hotel.
Throughout the night, tanks, armored personnel carriers and troop trucks that had deployed at the city's outskirts growled through the streets and headed back to Tiananmen.
Yet the government signaled that hard-line leaders were in control after a power struggle with moderates who advocated a softer approach toward the students, and retribution was in the air.
Premier Li, who declared martial law May 20, became the first Chinese leader to reappear in public since the weekend, addressing troops gathered in the Great Hall of the People, saying: ''We have come to salute you.'' The visit was shown on government television.
''Protect the security of the capital!'' Li shouted, lifting his right arm in an arc over his head and then snapping it down. The soldiers barked back his words in unison.
In a clear attempt to signal hardline control, Li, dressed in a Mao jacket, was accompanied by Vice President Wang Zhen, one of the toughest conservatives in the Chinese leadership.
''You have performed immortal feats for the revolution,'' a smiling Wang said to members of the army that cut a swath of death through pro-democracy demonstrators.
Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, a leading reformist, was reported purged in the power struggle, but there has been no official word. A radio broadcast Wednesday indicated he may have been replaced by a hard-line leader, Qiao Shi.
In an announcement read on state-run television, the Beijing government and the People's Liberation Army warned the independent student and workers unions formed during the two months of protests were ''illegal organizations.''
It demanded that the ''leaders of the counterrevolutionary rebellion'' surrender immediately and warned those who resist ''will be severely punished.'' The statement gave telephone numbers ''to report offenses to authorities.''