Students said Wednesday that government threats to suppress the largest student movement in China's history have only increased their resolve to make the country's leaders embrace democratic reforms.

Student leaders said a class boycott that began Monday had spread to 41 universities and colleges around Beijing, involving more than 70,000 students. At least four more schools joined the protest Wednesday, they said.Two protest leaders said students were ready to stage street demonstrations again as they did when they began their campaign 10 days ago.

Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on Tuesday ordered authorities to crack down on the protest, said a journalist at the People's Daily, the voice of the ruling Communist Party.

"The peasants support us, the workers support us, the army supports us, so why should we be bothered by students," the journalist quoted the 84-year-old Deng as saying.

His remarks sparked the People's Daily to publish a harsh editorial that called the student movement "a planned conspiracy" aimed at the overthrow of the government.

The country's major newspapers and radio stations carried the editorial, which called the newly formed student unions "illegal" and said further protests and demonstrations would be forbidden. It described the current disturbances as a "grave political struggle."

Millions of Communist Party members met Wednesday to discuss the editorial and to prepare for the crackdown, party members said.

The Beijing Daily, meanwhile, published an order from the city government telling the students to disband their "illegal" unions. Most of the unions were formed last week after students throughout Beijing voted down the official student organizations, which are hand-picked by university officials.

To add weight to the government's hand, about 10,000 troops from the 38th Army, a special force for suppressing civic disturbances, took up positions in many buildings near university campuses, students and Chinese sources said.

Student leaders pledged to defy the government's warnings.