BEIJING -- China's leadership puzzle began to fall into place Friday with the reappearance of Communist patriarch Deng Xiaoping, who endorsed last weekend's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators but promised that economic reforms will continue.
China's state-run television showed Deng, 84, looking frail but animated, presiding over a meeting at Zhongnanhai, the red-walled leadership compound in central Beijing. He was flanked by conservative allies and a host of army generals.
Deng, who had been away from public view for three weeks, said the crackdown against student protesters centered at Tian An Men Square was needed to defend Communist rule in China. He accused a "very small number of people" of "attempting to overthrow the Communist Party, topple the socialist system and subvert the People's Republic of China to establish a bourgeois republic."
Deng sat at a round table in the company of hard-line Premier Li Peng and a group of octogenarian revolutionary leaders including President Yang Shangkun. Across a large bouquet of flowers sat an array of army generals, among them Defense Minister Qin Jiwei, rumored to have been in disfavor for opposing the May 20 imposition of martial law in Beijing.
Deng said that in crushing what he called a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" last weekend, an action that resulted in hundreds or perhaps thousands of civilian deaths, the People's Liberation Army had proven that it "is always the defender of the state, the socialist system and the people's interests." He described the army as "the bastion of iron of the state."
Deng also stressed, however, that China will continue the basic policies of economic reform and openness to the outside world implemented under his direction over the past decade.
"This incident has impelled us to think over the future as well as the past sober-mindedly," he said. "It will enable us to carry forward our cause more steadily, better and even faster and correct our mistakes faster."
He stressed that his formula for China's economic modernization--tight political control combined with market-oriented reforms--should undergo no basic change.
"However, we should seriously sum up our experience and carry on what is right, correct the errors and make great efforts to improve what is unsatisfactory," he said.
In further confirmation of the eclipse of the more liberal wing of the Communist Party, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and Politburo Standing Committee member Hu Qili, the two highest-ranking reformist leaders, were absent. No mention was made of them. They are presumed to be under detention.
TV Attack on Dissident
State-run television news broadcast Friday evening a bitter attack on astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, China's most prominent advocate of democratic reform, who together with his wife, Beijing University physics professor Li Shuxian, has been allowed by the American government to take refuge at the U.S. Embassy here.
The attack, which came in the form of an alleged telephone call from a citizen to a martial-law reporting center, can be viewed as an expression of official policy. It for the first time directly accused Fang of responsibility for the pro-democracy protests that provoked the current crisis.
"When we heard the broadcast that Fang Lizhi had taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy, we were extremely angry," the statement said. "This kind of a criminal who sells out his country absolutely must not be allowed to escape. . . . He aroused the students, instigated this rebellion and so many people have died. Now he runs away. . . . You absolutely must punish him."
With hard-liners in clear control, Beijing took on more of the look of a city fully under martial law Friday. Troops that had been concentrated in just a few locations within the bounds of the once-walled old city fanned out over larger areas, with small groups of soldiers guarding a growing number of intersections, bridges and streets.
Soldiers swept away debris left when citizens, angered by the army's bloody assault, set up road blocks and burned army vehicles, public buses and trucks. Bus and bicycle traffic was allowed, for the first time since Saturday, along Changan Avenue past the north side of Tian An Men Square.
The square was still full of trucks and dozens of tanks as it continued to serve as the focal point of military occupation.
On main streets, army trucks equipped with loudspeakers and machine guns broadcast appeals for calm.