Authorities in major Chinese cities have tightened security in recent days, holding a prominent activist at an unknown location, as the country's municipal law-making bodies meet ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Hubei-based rights activist Liu Feiyue has been incommunicado since last week after being taken away by police ahead of the provincial parliamentary session, his friends and family said on Thursday.
Liu, who runs the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group, was taken away by police last Friday, his friend and fellow activist Shi Yulin said, adding that he had been called in "for a chat about social stability" to his local police station.
"He called me in a huge hurry at about 5.00 p.m. on Friday, and just managed to say a couple of short sentences before he was cut off," Shi said.
"He said he was being taken to a hotel by state security police to be held under house arrest, and that I should carry on with the work of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch," he said.
"He said it was because of the parliamentary sessions, and then the line went dead."
Shi said he had himself been targeted by police, who seemed worried about threats to "social stability" during the legislative meetings.
"A couple of days ago, a few state security police came to my home to talk about 'stability'," and they wouldn't let me leave my home," Shi said.
"They got particularly worried when Guangzhou rights lawyer Tang Jingling and his wife came to visit, and knocked on my door three times in the course of a single day," said Shi, who works with Liu on the rights group's website.
Meanwhile, 200 petitioners in the southwestern city of Chengdu gathered outside the venue of the municipal Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on the first day of its session on Thursday.
The petitioners were hoping to draw the attention of delegates to the loss of their farmland and their complaints over compensation, but a number were taken away by police, according to petitioner Gan Xingyan.
"We will definitely keep going with our efforts to complain to the authorities," Gan said. "The leaders higher up don't take this seriously."
"We have nothing to lose," he said. "We have already been so oppressed; we don't care if they detain us."
Authorities in the northern city of Taiyuan, meanwhile, detained a group of nearly 100 petitioners who arrived outside the municipal CPPCC parliamentary advisory body as it began its session on Wednesday.
According to petitioner Li Maolin, the entire group was taken off by bus to the No. 588 petitioner holding center, or "black jail."
"They locked us up there from 8.00 a.m. until 6.00 p.m.," Li said. "I guess that was when the meeting ended, and they didn't let us go until then."
Li said the petitioners were treated violently during their incarceration.
"They were trying to frighten us, and threaten us, and they sent criminal gang members to insult, threaten and beat us up," he said.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Chen Xiaoxiong for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.