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China Troops Show Support for Premier : Opposition Emerges in Politburo as Power Struggle Escalates

May 24, 1989|From Associated Press

BEIJING — The struggle for China heated up today with official reports of widespread military support for Premier Li Peng, whose attempt to crush the pro-democracy movement has led to mass demonstrations demanding his ouster.

But the conservative Li faced new opposition within the policy-making Politburo Standing Committee.

Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said a Politburo meeting will be called Thursday or Friday.

Also today, China informed Western television stations that it was cutting off satellite transmissions as of midnight (8 a.m. PDT), ending their ability to broadcast from China.

Li declared martial law in Beijing on Saturday, ordering troops to restore order in the city, where more than 1 million people have rallied in support of a student campaign for a freer China and an end to official corruption.

The student protests have galvanized the nation, inspiring the largest spontaneous movement in Communist China's 40 years.

Sit-In's 12th Day

Soldiers were deployed on Beijing's outskirts today but did not move on tens of thousands of student protesters, now on their 12th day of a sit-in at central Tian An Men Square.

Over the weekend, throngs of city residents erected street barricades to prevent an army advance, stalling convoys. Hundreds of thousands of protesters also took to the streets in dozens of other cities. All reportedly called for Li's ouster.

Subway and bus service resumed in Beijing, and traffic appeared near normal today.

Although the army's inability to enforce martial law has called into doubt its willingness to follow Li's orders, the official New China News Agency said six of seven military regions support the decision to call troops to Beijing. Only the Beijing military command was not mentioned.

Liberation Army Daily, the military newspaper, today published a letter from army headquarters urging soldiers sent to enforce martial law to "fully understand the nature of this struggle."

'Hard Struggle'

The letter said, "The turmoil created by an extremely small number of people still has not been quelled. If their scheme succeeds, then the 10 years of hard struggle for reform and the work of establishing of modernizing socialism will be destroyed in a moment."

On Monday, however, more than 100 senior army officers signed a letter seeking an end to martial law, suggesting a deep split in the military.

Two government sources said today that Hu Qili, one of five members in the policy-making Politburo Standing Committee, had thrown his support to the relatively liberal Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who is battling Li.

Hu is in charge of the state-run press. On Tuesday, some official reports criticized Li's attempts to carry out martial law.

Reports have circulated that Zhao--who had urged conciliation with the students--had offered to resign rather than order troops into Beijing.

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