HONG KONG — Soldiers loyal to China's president detained the defense minister and several commanders in a dispute over a top military post vacated by Zhao Ziyang, the purged Communist Party boss, Chinese sources said today.
They said President Yang Shangkun, a central figure in the martial law crackdown, apparently ordered the action to strengthen his control of the Chinese military.
In the military power struggle, soldiers loyal to Yang went to the Beijing residence of Defense Minister Qin Jiwei about 6:40 p.m. Wednesday and took him and one of his armed guards away, the sources said.
Other troopers detained the heads of the Beijing, Guangzhou and Nanjing military districts, who support Qin and who were in Beijing for an important meeting, they said.
Control of the military is essential in high-level Chinese politics. Senior leader Deng Xiaoping's only official post is chairman of the Central Military Commission, China's top military body.
Qin and Yang have been competing to become first vice chairman of the commission, left vacant by Zhao's dismissal June 24.
In Beijing, government spokesman Yuan Mu confirmed reports that student leader Wang Dan had been arrested and said Zhao, who has not been seen in public since May 18, is leading a "completely normal life."
A Shanghai newspaper said authorities have arrested or are investigating 99 people accused of involvement in illegal workers' groups that plotted to establish a "people's party" and to kidnap officials. The Shanghai Liberation Daily said the groups planned to overthrow the government.
Staff members of the Guangming Daily, the Communist Party's leading newspaper for intellectuals, said senior editor Yao Xihua, 61, has been "asked to retire."