BEIJING — Students who twice paralyzed Beijing with mass demonstrations said Sunday they are likely to refrain from protests during the visit to China next week by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, a man they champion as a Communist reformer.
Gorbachev's historic visit will mark a significant reduction in 30 years of tension between the two Communist countries, and students said that trouble during the visit would be a terrible loss of face for China.
"The visit is too important for our country," said a student at Teachers University. "We are a patriotic, democratic movement, so we would not do anything against our country."
Last Thursday, despite stern official warnings, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters paralyzed the capital during a meeting of the Asian Development Bank, and some activists suggested the same could happen when the Soviet leader arrives May 15.
'We Do Not March Just for Fun'
"We reserve the right to protest during Gorbachev's visit, but our goal is not to demonstrate, and we do not march just for fun," said a student leader from the central city of Xian who came to Beijing to meet with fellow activists.
"If the government is sensible, it will agree to have talks with us, as our conditions are reasonable," she added.
Many students involved in three weeks of unrest said the Soviet leader represents a younger, reformist and more open style of government, in direct contrast with that of China's 84-year-old paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.
"What China needs is someone like Gorbachev. His thinking is clear and good," a student union organizer told reporters last week.
"I think Gorbachev is a great, amazing political star and a considerable theoretician," said a student at the University of Politics and Law. "I welcome him to come and visit my university, as we really pay a lot of attention to his reforms."
The editor of a youth magazine said someone like Gorbachev is needed to battle China's entrenched bureaucracy.
"Chinese intellectuals admire Gorbachev and wish we had such a person. It takes someone with a lot of spirit to carry reforms through," he said.
But activists said their demands for an end to official corruption, democratic reforms in the government and an open and free press are not an imitation of reforms in the Soviet Union.
"Our ideas come from the Chinese people, and it is the ordinary people who are standing behind us, that is all," said Ni Xu, a former student-union committee member.
Splits in Movement
Organizing another major demonstration on the scale of Thursday's would be difficult because of splits within the movement, students said.
While many of the students at about 50 universities in the capital who took part in a two-week classroom strike said they will return to class today, students at Beijing University voted Saturday night to continue their protest.
A new student organization made up of representatives, primarily graduate students, from 24 universities has given the government a conciliatory petition asking for dialogue.
"We want dialogue. We are not considering other methods or other activities," leader Xiang Xiaoji told reporters when asked if his group favors demonstrations.
"The government is not our adversary," he said.
A prominent intellectual warned against official complacency if the student unrest dies down.
"If students return to class, but the deep problems in Chinese reform are not settled . . . the problems the students have pointed out this year will come back again," Yan Jiaqi, director of the political science institute of the Academy of Social Science, said in an article in China Youth News.