For the first time wall posters have been reported in Peking defending the actions of much-maligned former Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping and demanding the execution of at least one of his principal tormentors.
A large crowd gathered in central Peking today to read an eight-page pink poster that for the first time in a year called Teng "comrade," corresponsents based in the Communist capital reported.
Another large, black lettered poster nearby declared, "Kill the dog's head of the Gang of Four," the label now attached to former Vice Premier Chang Chun-chiao, one of the four leading radicals purged by the new administration of Chairman Hua Kuo-feng in October, the reports said.
The posters' dramatic appearance marked a new stage in what appears to have been a raging debate within the new Chinese leadership over what to do with the now discraced "Gang of Four," including Cang, former Communist Party Vice Chairman Wang Hung-wen, former Politburo member Yao Wen-yuan and Mao Tse-tung's widow Chiang Ching, and their arch-rival Teng.
The official media in recent weeks have called at varying times for both harsh and lenient treatment of the gang and their followers. Today's poster indicated hardliners had decided to go to the streets with their demands for what would be the first known executions of high ranking party leaders in the history of the people's Republic.
By contrast, there now appears to be general agreement that Teng, who has already recovered from one previous purge, was not the villian the radicals made him out to be in a nation-wide attack on his modern management techniques that ended with the October purges. Criticisms of Teng have disappeared from the official media. Today's favorable poster may foreshadow a decision to rehabilitate him officially in honor of the first anniversary of the death of his chief patron, former Premier Chou En-lai.
The pro-Teng poster also marked the first clear attempt to rewrite the history of one of the most remarkable public events ever to occur in Communist China - last April's riots in Peking's Tien An Men Square. Up to now, the riots, apparently touched off by people mourning Chou, have been officially categorized as a counterrevolutionary incident incited by Teng's supporters. Today's wall poster, Reuter reported, said the radicals used the Tien An Men incident "to smear the name of Comrade Teng Hiao-ping."
Thousand of people had gone to Tien An Men to "put up wreaths on the martyr's monument to show their love and esteem for Premier Chou . . . but (the radicals), to further their political schemes, ordered the wreaths pulled down and sent people to trample them underfoot," the poster reportedly said.
The poster, whose main theme was praise for the memory of Chou, himself something of a non-person in China when the radicals were riding high last year, was signed by a "revolutionary successor" and carried the date of Jan. 8, the anniversary of Chou's death.
The poster said "the categorization of Mr. Teng as China Nagy (a Hungarian leader who led the 1956 revolt against the Communist establishment) struck everybody inside and outside China as quite extraordinary" accoding to Reuter.
The official Chinese press this week is full of tributes to Chou, a pragmatic Chinese leader who during his long illness with cancer tried to set Teng up as his eventual successor in the premiership.
Teng was last seen in public last Jan. 15, when he read the eulogy at Chou's memorial service. His attacks on various radical policies, such as admitting peasants and workers to universities regardless of their academic skills, apparently led Mao to turn against him and appoint Hua instead to the premiership.
As Mao grew more ill and then died Sept. 9, his radical disciples turned their fire on Hua and other veteran party leaders, who in turn put the radicals under arrest.
Teng, who enjoyed the protection of some of those veteran cadres after he was dismissed from all his posts April 7, has been reported alive and well. One traveler recently said he was seen at a Peking restaurant,making characteristically sarcastic remarks about the need to continue the criticism of himself.
Today's poster calling for the execution of Chang, who last year had tried to win the premiership for himself, was pasted to a wall along the main Avenue of Eternal Tranquility, Reuter said. Such posters may have been displayed earlier in parts of China and in areas of Peking that are off limits to foreigners. The appearance of such statements at prominent parts of the capital where they can be seen by all, however, has great significance in the unique Chinese system of public relations.
Wall posters traditionally have provided a convenient method for floating trial ballons that often, although not always, turn into official policy. The appointment of Hua as Mao's successor and the pruge of the Gang of Four were first reported in a wall poster three monthago but other wall posters announcing the appointment of No. 3 party leader Li Hsien-nien as premier were torn down after brief appearances in Shanghai Nov. 1.