BEIJING — Hard-line Premier Li Peng made a triumphal reappearance today as China's Communist Party launched a crackdown on dissent, calling pro-democracy activists dangerous "counterrevolutionaries" and urging people to inform on them.
The streets of the capital, under martial law imposed by Li three weeks ago, appeared calm. But despite the outward easing of tension thousands of foreigners continued to flee the city.
The strongest indication so far that the hard-line officials were prevailing came with a film report on the evening television news of Premier Li addressing what was described as "a certain martial-law unit."
An ebullient Li, wearing an austere Mao suit, was shown being lustily cheered by soldiers after he said:
"On behalf of the State Council (China's Cabinet), I bring you greetings. I hope you will continue to work hard to preserve peace and order in the capital."
Li has been widely reviled in China and abroad for calling on troops to smash a peaceful protest. But he looked fit and confident, apparently giving the lie to a Hong Kong newspaper report that he had been wounded in an assassination attempt by a policeman whose relatives were killed in Tian An Men Square.
Clues to Zhao's Ouster
Further signs that the nominal Communist Party general secretary, the reformist Zhao Ziyang, had been ousted came with a series of hard-line announcements from party, government and martial-law organs.
The party's Discipline Inspection Commission ordered the 47 million party members to combat what it called a "counterrevolutionary threat."
The State Council said the national rail system is at risk from saboteurs. It said security personnel had been authorized to use "all methods" to protect rail communications.
Later, the Beijing city government and the martial-law command decreed that the unofficial student and worker unions, which played a key role in this year's campaign for democracy, are "counterrevolutionary organizations."
The television repeatedly broadcast telephone numbers for callers to use to inform on union members, designated as counterrevolutionary rioters.
Fresh martial-law troops moved into central areas of Beijing today, replacing units of the reviled 27th Army, which spearheaded the brutal assault early Sunday on thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tian An Men Square.
Although the newly arrived soldiers are still heavily armed, the change of faces seemed to reassure a frightened populace.
Citizens came out into the streets to discuss the weekend carnage in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, were shot or crushed to death by tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Soldiers, on their best behavior, listened to the tales of horror. Many had the same response: "Judge us by our actions."
The new, softer military approach in the capital, after days in which wild-eyed soldiers shot up tourist hotels and diplomatic apartments, and the day's volley of political directives prompted some analysts to speculate that China's feuding leaders had reached a compromise to cool a dangerous situation that many feared was spiraling into civil war.