Students Not Deterred by Zhao’s Reported Ouster With AM-China, Bjt
BEIJING (AP) _ Students camped out in Beijing’s central square tried to gauge the shifting political winds Friday but said their protest would continue no matter who runs the country.
Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, the leader most sympathetic to the demonstrators’ demands, was reported to have been ousted and placed under house arrest in a power struggle with Premier Li Peng.
The number of students in Tiananmen Square had dwindled to about 15,000, but student leaders said they were undeterred by the apparent ascendancy of Li, who has taken a much harder line with the demonstrators.
″It’s going to get more complex,″ said a student leader from Qinghua University who would only give his name as Xin. ″We can’t ascertain what the leaders’ intentions are, but we will not leave the square.″
Chinese sources say Zhao has been stripped of all powers and that Li is in charge of party and government functons.
″Zhao Ziyang was relatively open-minded,″ Xin said atop the People’s Heroes Monument in Tiananmen Square, where the student leaders have set up their headquarters. ″We don’t feel that he was the savior of all China, but he was more capable than Li Peng.″
The students, who began their protests April 15 by seeking talks with the government on social reforms and profiteering by bureaucrats, are demanding Li’s resignation.
Zhao’s apparent ouster has not weakened the students’ resolve to stay in the square until Li resigns because ″everybody in the country is watching the square,″ Xin said. ″If we leave, we will betray their hopes.″
″Students are not losing hope just because Zhao is sacked,″ said a Beijing medical student. ″Our belief is firm and cannot be moved.″
Ren Ju, a senior at the Central Nationalities Institute, said students preferred Zhao over Li.
″We didn’t really like Zhao Ziyang before all this started, but after the hunger fast, he came to visit the strikers on the square and said he would work to eradicate corruption starting with his own children,″ Ren said.
His removal will not deter students from their sit-in, Ren said.
Guo Weiming, a senior at Xian Transportation College, said: ″We don’t feel simply that Zhao should replace Li,″ Guo said. ″I’m not convinced he could represent the people’s interests.″
Zhao reportedly angered party conservatives with an impassioned speech to a group of hunger strikers in Tiananmen last week, as well as a detailed explanation to visiting Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev last week of a secret 1987 meeting confirming senior leader Deng Xiaoping’s paramount power.
Last month he also called the student movement ″patriotic″ rather than Li’s favored description, ″disturbances.″
Not all students were convinced Zhao was truly out. ″I think there’s some kind of intrigue going on where we’re deliberately being sent the wrong signals,″ said a sophomore at Tianjin Institute of Light Industry named Liang.
″Maybe word of Zhao’s dismissal was deliberately leaked so people would rally around him,″ Liang said. ″Then if he actually came into power he would be in a better position to control the masses.″