Police in the Chinese capital have detained at least four people after they met in private to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, rights groups said.
1989 democracy movement veteran Zhao Changqing, and civil rights activists Zhang Baocheng, Ma Xinli and Xu Caihong were detained in the early hours of Tuesday morning after they held a prayer session at Zhao's home last weekend for those who died, according to the Weiquanwang and Humanitarian China rights groups.
Some of their relatives confirmed the reports to RFA on Wednesday.
"[Xu Caihong] is in the police station right now under criminal detention ... on suspicion of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," Xu Caihong's husband He Bin told RFA on Wednesday. "They told me she will be transferred to the Fengtai Detention Center today."
"They told me she would be locked up for at least 30 days, and that this could be extended," he said.
Zhang Baocheng's wife, Liu Juefan confirmed that he too had been taken away by police.
"He is being held under criminal detention in the Fengtai Detention Center," Liu said. "I told them that they should have given me a formal notification of his detention, and they said it was a matter for the district police department, not the local police station."
And Ma Xinli's sister Ma Hongjun said he was being held alongside the other activists.
"The police officer called me to tell me he is in the Fengtai Detention Center, and to have me go over there and take back his keys and his personal effects," Ma said. "I think they are all being held in the same place."
Calls to activists Li Meiqing and Liang Taiping, who also attended Saturday's prayer meeting, rang unanswered on Wednesday.
The detentions come amid tight security ahead of the June 4 anniversary, public commemoration of which is banned by the government, which styles the 1989 democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."
More than 150 relatives of those who died or were maimed in the crackdown issued a joint statement on Wednesday hitting out at the government for nearly three decades of surveillance, harassment and suppression as they have pressed for a reappraisal of the 1989 protests, the pursuit of those responsible, and compensation for the victims' families.
"Twenty-seven years have passed since the June 4 massacre of 1989," the Tiananmen Mothers campaign group wrote in a statement translated by the U.S.-based group Human Rights in China (HRIC).
"For us, family members of the victims’ families, it has been 27 years of white terror and suffocation," said the open letter, signed by 131 people and posted on HRIC's website.
"We the victims’ families are eavesdropped and surveilled upon by the police; we are followed or even detained, and our computers searched and confiscated," the statement said. "The police use contemptible means such as making up stories, fabricating facts, [and] issuing threats against us."
"All these actions undoubtedly desecrate the souls of those who perished ... and insult the honor of the living," it said.
According to rights activists on Twitter, the phone line of Tiananmen Mothers founder Ding Zilin has been cut off, and she is unable to contact the outside world.
“In the run-up to the 27th anniversary of June 4, all of the main families are under surveillance," group spokeswoman You Weijie told RFA. "We can't visit Ding Zilin, because we have been banned from visiting each other."
"We won't be free to move around again until after June 4," she said.
‘Same old routine’
Fellow Tiananmen Mothers campaigner Zhang Xianling said she is in a similar situation.
"They've been on duty since May 29. It's the same old routine," Zhang said. "There are two or three of them near the elevators, and two or three more at the foot of the stairs."
"They are using unmarked vehicles this year, so it's not as obvious to the foreigners who live in the same building; they've gotten a little smarter this year," she said.
"They don't stop me from going out, but when I do, they follow," Zhang said. "They even follow me to the supermarket to buy groceries."
She said the police were "bastards" for their treatment of Ding, who lost her husband Jiang Peikun last September.
"What sort of government is it that attacks somebody like her in this way ... What crime has she committed?" she said. "I am very angry about this."
Elsewhere in Beijing, veteran democracy activist Zha Jianguo said he is already under close surveillance.
"The state security police asked me if I had any activities planned, and whether I planned to go out to eat," Zha said.
"They said if I wanted to go anywhere, I should go in their car," he said. "This is until June 6."
Meanwhile, veteran journalist Gao Yu and Bao Tong, former top aide to ousted late premier Zhao Ziyang, have been escorted out of Beijing on an enforced "vacation," activists told RFA.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.