Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang called for a dialogue with students in authorities' first public comment following historic pro-democracy rallies in Tiananmen Square, official media reported Friday.
Students marched by the tens of thousands to occupy the square Thursday and rally for more freedom. Some returned to class Friday to end a two-week boycott but student leaders at Beijing University refused to immediately call off the strike.Zhao, in a speech made Thursday but reported Friday in the party organ People's Daily, said, "Now we need broad consultations and dialogue - dialogue with students, dialogue with workers, dialogue with intellectuals."
Student activists want the government to open talks with them on demands for democracy, freedom of the press and an end to official corruption. Zhao, while saying talks were needed, did not specifically promise any meeting.
The party leader acknowledged that great numbers of Chinese are expressing anger toward official corruption, and attributed the problem to a lack of openness and a faulty legal system.
Zhao also seemed to tone down earlier official claims that students were being manipulated by people who wanted to see the country in turmoil. Such people "are extremely few and we should maintain vigilance. I think the vast majority of students understand this."
Despite conciliatory official statements, some students feel they must continue to pressure the government if concessions are ever to be made in Communist China.
"Who announced the return to class? Can you face your conscience and compatriots at home and abroad who have cared for us and supported us?" one student scrawled furiously on a sheet of newspaper that he posted at Beijing University.
Said an economics student who was reading the poster, "If we go back to class now then there's no pressure on the government and it won't recognize our independent union."
The student march Thursday was their sixth in defiance of police orders since April 17, and one of the largest.
About 100,000 people, half of them students, converged on Tiananmen Square, the symbolic seat of power, to mark the 70th anniversary of China's first student movement. There, they held a festive rally for greater freedom, cleaner government, a free press and official recognition of their United Association.
"We have to transform China," said a 20-year-old student from the Political Science and Law College.