The country's three most influential news organizations--the People's Daily, the New China News Agency and the national television network--carried reports Wednesday describing Beijing as socially stable, with an upsurge of politeness between ordinary citizens.
By describing life in the capital as stable, the media reports provided support for reformist Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, 69, in a political struggle against Li, 60, and elderly leaders, including 84-year-old Deng Xiaoping, who want to use the army to crush a five-week-old student-led pro-democracy protest movement.
Other reports, however, have reflected significant political and military backing for the attempted martial-law crackdown.
In its morning newscast today, the local Beijing radio station reported a call by military authorities for troops to obey the orders of the party and to study recent statements by Li.
"A small group of people are creating chaos with the aim of rejecting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and rejecting the socialist system," the military statement declared. "In the face of this serious struggle, we must keep cool heads and a revolutionary attitude. No matter what serious situations arise, no matter what complex struggles we face, we must fulfill to the full the orders of the Central Military Commission."
Deng, as chairman of that commission, is commander in chief of the armed forces and is believed to have personally approved the decision to impose martial law. Until the current crisis broke, it had been widely expected that Zhao, No. 2 in the commission hierarchy, stood a good chance of succeeding Deng as chairman sometime this year.
The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong English-language daily, reported Wednesday that Deng had branded Zhao "a traitor to the party . . . and a counterrevolutionary" during a two-day enlarged Politburo meeting in Beijing that ended Tuesday.
The Politburo was also said to have decided to purge officers and troops loyal to Zhao.
According to the Morning Post, Politburo members, including Li, accused Zhao of four "crimes." One is that he gave support to the "counterrevolutionary" student movement; another, that he disclosed state secrets to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev by describing the internal Chinese Communist Party decision to let Deng continue as the final arbiter of all party decisions.
Third, the Morning Post said, the hard-liners accused Zhao of supporting radical reforms that they consider counterrevolutionary. And finally, the newspaper said, Zhao is accused of being an "official profiteer." The paper said that both Zhao and his two sons are alleged to have committed serious economic crimes.
In today's editions, the Hong Kong newspaper said that unnamed military leaders promised Deng their support in exchange for a larger political role for the People's Liberation Army and a bigger share of the budget. The Morning Post also reported that Deng has formed a high-level "National Leading Group to Prevent Turmoil" within the Central Military Commission to take charge of the political crisis.
Deng and his supporters are attempting to strip Zhao of all his posts within the party, the newspaper reported.
In another media-related decision favoring the hard-liners fronted by Li, satellite transmissions by foreign television networks--which had been banned, then allowed again--were again banned Wednesday.
The army has been blocked for five days at the outskirts of Beijing by residents who swarmed into the streets to erect barricades of buses, trucks and concrete pipes.
Surprised by the fierce resistance of the capital's citizens--and unwilling to use force against them--almost all of the troops have now retreated a few miles to settle into nearby army bases. About 1,500 soldiers who arrived by rail Sunday at the central train station--the only soldiers to have penetrated the citizens' defense perimeter--endured a fourth day of waiting in their coaches Wednesday.
Some of the soldiers said two more battalions had arrived by train at Tongxian, nine miles east of the capital, United Press International reported.
All of the troops--now estimated to number anywhere from 20,000 to 70,000 in the outskirts of Beijing--appeared to be waiting for the political struggle in the top leadership to produce a winner capable of issuing clear orders.