BEIJING -- Defiance of martial law by masses of Beijing residents and power struggles within the Chinese leadership left pro-democracy protesters still in control of central Beijing at noon today.
For about 50,000 student demonstrators gathered in the central part of Tian An Men Square and at least an equal number of citizen supporters surrounding them, a night of fear marked by rumors of an impending attack gave way to a dawn of cautious hope.
A trainload of about 1,500 soldiers armed with AK-47 automatic rifles sat this morning at the central train station, making no attempt to leave their coaches.
Sunday evening and into the night, students and other protesters had surrounded the train inside the station, while crowds outside blocked the way to Tian An Men Square, less than two miles to the west.
This morning, barricades of city buses remained in place on streets near the station, but the students and protesting crowds were gone. A bicycle rickshaw driver said they had left because they believed the soldiers had no intention of advancing on the square.
On the outskirts of the capital, citizens manned barricades of buses and trucks that blocked the advance of an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 soldiers in army trucks and armored personnel carriers who had been ordered into Beijing from outlying areas.
Some troops--apparently soldiers already inside the city when martial law was declared Saturday morning--have been positioned to protect important government buildings and institutions in the capital, according to a report on state-run radio Sunday evening.
With China in crisis after a month of escalating pro-democracy protests, demonstrators are demanding the resignations of Premier Li Peng, 60, and senior leader Deng Xiaoping, 84, whose position as chairman of the Central Military Commission makes him commander in chief of the armed forces.
Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, 69, who opposed the attempted martial-law crackdown, is widely believed to have submitted his resignation. Many people presume that Zhao has been placed under some form of house arrest.
A brief news report on state-run television this morning said that students had visited the home of retired army Marshal Xu Xiangqian to express concern that the army seems about to move against the protesters. Xu reportedly told them: "The military men do not want to have an incident of bloodshed and will take all possible measures to avoid it. Please do not believe rumors."
The television news also reported that representatives of the protesting students visited the home of retired Marshal Nie Rongzhen and submitted a letter claiming that Premier Li had presided over a meeting Sunday afternoon that had decided:
-- The student movement is a rebellion.
-- The student demonstrators in Tian An Men Square must be suppressed.
-- All major jails in the capital should prepare to imprison more people.
-- All the street-sweeping vehicles of the capital had been requested to clean Tian An Men Square at 5 a.m. today.
Labeled as Rumors
Nie was reported to have replied that the four points were purely rumors and should not be believed. He told the students that the troops are coming to safeguard social order and stability and that "the students should assist the People's Liberation Army in their mission."
The students should withdraw from the square for the sake of "national dignity, order in Beijing, urban life and their own health and study," Nie told the students, according to this report. The same report was also made public by the official New China News Agency.