Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou have dispatched dozens of police officers to a hillside cemetery outside the city to prevent a planned commemoration of the death of a Mao-era dissident, activists said.
Dozens of uniformed police lined the woodland pathways leading up Lingyan mountain near Suzhou's Mudu township, preventing activists from marking Tuesday's 82nd anniversary of Lin Zhao's execution for alleged counterrevolutionary crimes under the rule of late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
"For the past few days, a lot of people from out of town have been coming to visit the tomb," a would-be participant surnamed Qian told RFA, citing local business owners.
"I spoke to a gentleman called Zhang Peixiang who saw police severely beating up some of these people," he said.
Pan Lu, who teaches high school in Suzhou, said she had been prevented from visiting Lin Zhao's grave on Tuesday.
"We didn't go to Lingyan mountain because there were a lot of police officers and police vehicles at the foot of the mountain," Pan told RFA.
"I would guess that no one has managed to get up to the grave today," Pan said. "If they did, I haven't heard about it."
"We are now under tight police surveillance near Lingyan mountain...There are a lot of folk from out of town here with us...sort of milling around but they can't go up there," she said.
Pan said she estimated that around 50 police and armed police had been bussed in to seal off the area around Lin's grave.
And a local resident said a planned memorial event had been called off.
"They are keeping a particularly close watch on it this year, and they had to cancel the event," the resident said. "I heard the police have been patrolling the place all night."
"The place is still locked down," the resident said.
Born a writer
Lin Zhao is the pen name of Peng Lingzhao, a writer who grew up near Nanjing, in the eastern province of Jiangsu.
Lin was a star student at the prestigious Beijing University's Chinese language department in 1954, and worked for student poetry publication "Red Mansion."
Branded a "rightist" and a "class enemy" in 1957 after criticizing Mao's Anti-Rightist Movement targeting intellectuals, Lin went on to publicly defend army general Peng Dehuai's criticism of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), during which tens of millions are believed to have starved to death.
Initially detained on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the ruling Chinese Communist Party, Lin was later handed a 20-year jail term for "counterrevolution."
Lin was subjected to brutal torture while in jail, but continued to write until her pen and paper were taken away in September 1964, after which she wrote poems and essays on the walls and bedding using a hairpin dipped in her own blood.
She was executed by firing squad at Shanghai's Longhua Airport in 1968 at the age of 36 after her sentence was changed to the death penalty because she refused to "admit to her crimes."
She had previously written a message in her own blood, which read: "History will declare that I am innocent."
Her mother and sister knew nothing of the execution until police visited the family two days later, demanding payment for the bullets used to kill her.
Lin's treatment at the hands of the state was linked to the suicide of both parents, at different times. She has a surviving sister who lives in the United States.
Tang Jingling, one of three top human rights lawyers in the southern city of Guangzhou facing trial on subversion charges, has been accused of commemorating Lin's death, as well as a June 4, 1989, commemorative event and other activist campaigns.
Tang, Wang Qingying and Yuan Xinting were criminally detained on May 16, initially for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
The charges were later changed to the more serious charge of "incitement to subvert state power."
The three were detained amid a nationwide crackdown on activists and family members of victims of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student-led pro-democracy movement in the run-up to the 25th anniversary on June 4.
Tang's wife Wang Yanfang told RFA on Monday he had been given work to do making Christmas gift boxes while in the detention center, where he is still awaiting trial after his case was transferred to the state prosecution service last month.
"[His lawyer] Liu Zhengqing visited him on Dec. 8," Wang said. "After he changed cells, he didn't have to do that work anymore, but he is on all night shift duty now."
She said Tang passed his 44th birthday in the detention center.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.