BEIJING, SEPT. 27 -- China's Premier Zhao Ziyang today denied that the Communist Party had conducted a crackdown on intellectuals and asserted that he knew of no one who had been unfairly treated simply for criticizing the party's policies or leadership.
On the NBC news program "Meet the Press," Zhao also said the pace of economic change will accelerate after a party congress to be convened Oct. 25.
Zhao and other Chinese leaders have made great efforts recently to assure foreigners that China's economic reforms are continuing and that the country is stable and open to new foreign investments.
Zhao is widely credited with having curbed a recent drive by traditionalist party leaders to oust certain intellectuals from the party. Last month, at least four intellectuals were expelled or asked to resign from the party in addition to three who were ousted earlier this year.
Chinese sources said traditionalist Marxist ideologues had urged that as many as 20 intellectuals be thrown out of the party but that Zhao had drawn the line at a more limited number.
"Maybe there are some people in the United States who view this as a crackdown or oppression of the intellectuals," said Zhao in the interview. "I do not agree with this."
Su Shaozhi, a Marxist theoretician who advocated democratic political reforms, recently lost his job as director of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung Thought. Well-informed Chinese say Su retained his party membership because of Zhao's moderating influence.
Asked about dissidents who were sentenced to long prison terms in the late 1970s and early 1980s after they questioned the leadership of the Communist Party, Zhao said, "So far as I know, there is no such case for people to be unfairly treated or even arrested or jailed, simply because they have criticized the policies of the party, or the leadership."
"Of course, China has its laws," he said. "If people violate the law, it will be another case."
It was learned, meanwhile, that Wu Zuguang, a prominent playwright who was asked to resign from the party, has been given permission to travel to the United States next month to take part in a writing program.
He was accused, he said, of opposing the party leadership in the 1950s, not taking his admission into the party seriously, and calling for an end to the censorship of writers.
Another intellectual, Liu Xinwu, has been reinstated as editor-in-chief of People's Literature magazine, according to news agency reports in Hong Kong. Liu had been suspended from his job after being accused of propagating "bourgeois liberal" ideas through his magazine.