Authorities rounded up and placed under close surveillance dozens of critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party on Sunday on the anniversary of a bloody 1989 military crackdown that ended weeks of student-led democracy protests on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Beijing police set up roadblocks and identity checks around Muxidi, a district which saw fierce pitched battles between People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops and civilians armed with makeshift weapons, and where an unknown number people were killed by advancing troops and tanks.
Police were out in larger-than-usual force, intercepting journalists and asking them to leave, while two entrances and exits to the Muxidi subway station were shut down, ostensibly for "temporary construction work," according to official announcements at the station.
But activists continued to post photos online of themselves holding up placards bearing the words "Never forget June 4," in defiance of a long-running ban on public commemoration of the crackdown.
Beijing rights activist Hu Jia said he had been forced to go with state security police to the coastal city of Qinhuangdao, in neighboring Hebei province.
"I strongly condemn this violent government," Hu said. "People should be able to hold memorial activities for the 28th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 bloodshed, and also to make various demands on the the government."
The government styled the student-led democracy protests, sparked in April 1989 by the death of much-loved liberal premier Hu Yaobang, a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."
Public memorials and discussions of the events of June 1989 are banned, with activists who seek to commemorate the bloodshed often detained and veteran dissidents placed under police surveillance or detention during each anniversary.
"The most important thing of all, however, is to end this government by force."
Outspoken political journalist Gao Yu was taken out of Beijing on a compulsory "vacation," while political activist Zha Jianguo was taken away by police after writing an online post calling on people not to forget the 1989 protests or the subsequent crackdown, activists told RFA.
And state security police in the Beijing suburb of Miyun summoned human rights lawyer Xie Yanyi, recently released on bail from a nationwide crackdown on hundreds of lawyers, warning him not to speak out in public in support the lawyers, nor to attend any June 4 memorials, his wife said.
"He is at home, under surveillance now," she said.
Meanwhile, police in the southern province of Guangdong detained activist Chen Jianxiong in a hotel room in Foshan city late on Saturday, an anonymous source told RFA.
"This is linked to the 28th anniversary," the source said. "Some police from the local police station called Chen late the previous evening telling him that 'that sensitive date' is nearly here."
"They called at 3.00 a.m. on June 3, and told him that he was already surrounded by more than 20 cops," the source said. "Chen Jianxiong refused to come out for about half an hour, but then they got the owner of the building, and forced the door open."
Mothers remain frustrated
Meanwhile, in the southwestern city of Chongqing, rights activist Xie Dan said he had been notified on Friday that he would taken on an enforced 'vacation' by police.
"I am at home waiting for them now; they'll be here soon, to take me on vacation," Xie said, in reference to commonly reported police tactics of taking well-known activists to holiday resorts for all-expenses-paid trips under escort and round-the-clock surveillance at politically sensitive times.
"There's nothing I can do about this," Xie said.
Fellow Chongqing activist Han Liang said he had received a similar notification.
"They will be taking me away tomorrow for sure, and my freedom will be curtailed," Han said on Saturday. "They told me that it's to prevent me taking to the streets [to mark the anniversary]."
"A state security police officer sought me out in person to tell me.
They do this every year, around June 4; before, they would take me away as early as June 1," he said.
In the 28 years since the PLA crackdown, the Tiananmen Mothers victims' group have called repeatedly for a public inquiry into the massacre. They also want compensation, and a detailed account of who died, how and where.
The government has declined to respond publicly to their demands, however.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.