"Soon the whole country will go on strike to support the students' patriotic movement," this man said.
"Zhao Ziyang loves the country," one of these workers said. "He is at one with the students."
It appeared that no more than a few hundred army trucks, each carrying about 40 soldiers, were trying to enter the city overnight and that they were initially trying to avoid using force against those standing in their way.
Late this morning, about 3,000 people blocked three convoy trucks and a half dozen vehicles that appeared to be water cannons. The officer in charge of the group spoke for a few minutes with protesters on the back of a flatbed truck positioned to block the convoy's way. He then borrowed an electric megaphone from the demonstrators and declared to the crowd:
"We were not told the truth. We will leave and we will not be back. We are the people's army."
The crowd cheered wildly, and he saluted several times as the convoy drove aawy.
Elsewhere, though, there were scattered reports of clashes. According to United Press International, an American television crew filmed police near Tian An Men Square beating protesters with billyclubs.
Reuters reported that witnesses told it workers and peasants battled unarmed troops on the main road leading into Beijing 12 miles south of the city. At least one soldier was carried away unconscious after the 20-minute melee, the witnesses said.
Many of the soldiers and officers blocked by residents and students, however, did not appear greatly upset, and many said that they had not known about the scale of demonstrations in Beijing over the past week. Both Wednesday and Thursday, half a million or more people demonstrated in the streets of Beijing and in Tian An Men Square in support of the students' pro-democracy and anti-corruption demands. Some estimates placed the number of support demonstrators as high as 1 million.
Reports were already circulating among Chinese in Beijing on Thursday that the elite 38th Army, which has primary responsibility for protecting the capital, had refused to move against the demonstrators.
Premier Li charged that "a very small number of people" who seek to overthrow communism were behind the past month's protests.
"They spread rumors and smear party and government leaders," Li said. "They concentrate their attack on Comrade Deng Xiaoping, who has made great contributions. . . . Their purpose is to overthrow the people's government . . . and totally negate the people's democratic dictatorship. They stir up trouble everywhere, establish secret ties, set up illegal organizations and force the party and government to recognize them. In doing so they attempted to lay a foundation to set up opposition factions and opposition parties in China. If they succeed, the reform and opening to the outside world, democracy and legality and socialist modernization would all come to nothing."
Large numbers of people in Beijing, however, appeared to be on the side of students who provoked the crisis with their hunger strike and sit-down demonstration in Tian An Men Square. The students have been demanding that a top government leader meet with their leaders in a public, televised dialogue on ways to accelerate democratic reforms. The protests began in mid-May with general demands for press freedom, improved treatment of intellectuals and more effective measures against corruption.
At Shuangjing, on the southeastern side of Beijing, a dozen army trucks carrying a total of about 500 apparently unarmed soldiers were unable to move this morning after workers parked a construction crane and other vehicles to block their way forward and eight earth-moving trucks to block their retreat.
"Support Ziyang," someone in the crowd had chalked on the side of one truck, referring to Zhao, the embattled Communist Party chief, by his given name.
Zhao was not visible in the televised broadcast of Li's and Yang's speeches, nor was Deng, who, as chairman of the Central Military Commission, is commander in chief of the armed forces.
Crowds of people were also seen blocking army trucks on the west side of Beijing. Youths climbed onto the trucks, attached slogans to their sides and deflated their tires.
Workers positioned buses and dump trucks at key intersections around Beijing to block army access to the city.