BEIJING — COMMUNIST Party officials are sheltering liberal activists within China's party ranks and hindering a full-blown internal purge, a party leader says. The opposition to the party's nationwide housecleaning has hampered a campaign by the leadership to restore central party controls that were shaken by this spring's massive rallies for democracy, Western diplomats said. The attempted purge is the most severe measure in the effort to strengthen party discipline and revive Marxist orthodoxy, they say.
The internal strife suggests that the party has not yet mended a rift over the brutal silencing of the democracy movement, extending from the party's upper echelon in Beijing to its lower levels throughout the country, the diplomats say.
The clearest sign of this appeared in June, when veteran leaders ousted Zhao Ziyang as party general secretary. Mr. Zhao is firmly supported by party members outside Beijing who have gained decisionmaking powers from the decentralization that accompanied his economic reforms, diplomats say. The leadership appears intent on expelling rather than placating moderate party members like Zhao, the diplomats add.
Charged with nurturing ``bourgeois liberalization'' or liberal values, Zhao remains under house arrest at the leadership's compound in Beijing pending an investigation of his family finances and his activities during the spring protests, Chinese sources say.
``Some party organizations and leading cadres have continued to shelter those who were seriously involved in the riots and turmoil,'' says Politburo Standing Committee member Song Ping. The leadership has branded the peaceful protests a counterrevolutionary rebellion.
``Many instigators, plotters, organizers, and directors of the turmoil and the riot are party members,'' Mr. Song told a meeting of the Organization Department, a party disciplinary body.
Party members wrote and distributed anti-party leaflets, led rallies, opposed martial law, and tried to organize mass resignations from the party, Song said, according to the overseas edition of the party newspaper People's Daily.
The intraparty conflict suggests that some of the 47 million party members still favor the sort of limited tolerance of unorthodox political views that briefly prevailed before the June 3-4 massacre of liberal protesters, diplomats say.
``The leadership is trying very hard to bring about a full-scale purge'' both in the party and state bureaucracy, says a Western diplomat.
The leaders ``are determined to root out liberal activists and their sympathizers but they are facing severe resistance,'' the diplomat says.