Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed through Beijing's streets, demanding the resignation of Premier Li Peng and setting up barricades of buses and trucks that made it impossible for an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 troops ringing the city to move forward without violence.
Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, China's leading advocate of reform, who opposed the attempted military crackdown, was widely assumed to be under some form of house arrest Saturday. Well-informed sources had reported a day earlier that he had offered his resignation. Most demonstrators appeared to support him and hope that he could still emerge from the current crisis as China's top leader.
About 2,000 students on a hunger strike ended it Saturday, saying that the government is cold-hearted and therefore it is meaningless to continue. The students also said they need their strength to continue their struggle for democracy.
About 100,000 students and ordinary citizens again spent the night in central Beijing's Tian An Men Square. Many of the protesters, tired but still cautiously optimistic, tried to sleep or sat chatting with friends. But some staged banner-waving marches, including a group of about 1,500 who rode bicycles around the square chanting, "Li Peng retire!"
Rumors swept the crowd that soldiers might soon arrive, but the sun rose today with the troops still hunkered down far away.
At all major roads leading to the city, citizens had erected barricades of buses and trucks, positioned so that passage was possible only for small vehicles weaving their way through the maze-like blockades. Virtually all army units were being held back at about 10 to 20 miles from downtown, although some army trucks succeeded in approaching within about five miles of the city center before being stopped by barricades and crowds.
The Associated Press reported soldiers at the Beijing railway station, apparently to stop the flow of people to the capital to join the protests. Citizens blockaded the station, about two miles from Tian An Men Square, with trucks across the road, the news agency said.
At many non-barricaded intersections in the central city, crowds of 100 or 200 residents stood guard through the night, ready to attempt to block any army vehicles that might appear by unexpected routes.
About 300 army trucks, each carrying about 40 men, were seen by Western reporters blocked at two locations on the west side of the city. At another location in the southwestern suburbs, more than 5,000 students and peasants held off a 200-truck convoy.
"The people love the People's Army! The People's Army protects the people!" chanted students and peasants as they formed a human barricade to reinforce the barrier of flatbed trucks they had positioned to block the soldiers' advance.
It appeared that as many as 800 to 1,000 army trucks were positioned on major roads at the edge of the capital.
Some Soldiers Unarmed
Some soldiers at various locations around the outskirts of the city appeared unarmed, while others had AK-47 automatic rifles. Neither the soldiers nor the demonstrators appeared to want violence, however, and while there were some clashes, the situation as of dawn today remained one of a tense but peaceful standoff.
Many of the soldiers had been brought in from distant provinces and knew little of the events in Beijing during the past week or 10 days. Some had been told there was flooding in the capital and that they were being brought here to help, while others were told they were being sent on exercises, according to soldiers who spoke with Western reporters and Chinese students.
Along the main road leading directly east from central Beijing, residents had erected at least a dozen major barricades of buses and trucks blocking the army's attempted route. "The people's desire: Li Peng retire!" read a banner draped on the side of a dump truck in one of the blockades.
Prefer Zhao to Li, Deng
Protesters said they are seeking greater democracy and freedom in China. When asked about Zhao, the large majority said they prefer him to Li and China's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping.