Authorities in the eastern city of Suzhou deployed thousands of riot police who raided an activist's home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, detaining dozens of people and blocking a planned ceremony to mark the execution of a Mao-era political dissident, activists said.
"The police surrounded the home of Xu Chunling ... who had offered several dozen people who came from around the country a place to sleep ... at about 4 a.m.," local high school teacher and activist Lu Pan told RFA on Wednesday.
"At about 9 a.m., Xu Chunling's door was busted in by riot police," Pan said. "There were more than 30 people staying at her place."
"They are all being held, including Jia Pin, Wang Liang, Peng Zhonglin and others," she said.
"Zhu Chengzhi was also detained at the guesthouse where he was staying, and taken away by riot police," Pan said.
In a brief interview from inside the police station, Xu Chunling said police had offered no explanation.
"There were no formalities; all these people just suddenly surrounded the place," she said. "Those who weren't detained were escorted elsewhere."
"There weren't really any physical clashes," Xu said, before hanging up the phone.
More than 100 activists from Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Hunan provinces had arrived in the city ahead of the 47th anniversary of Lin Zhao's execution for alleged counterrevolutionary crimes under the rule of late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
They had planned to hold a memorial event at the Lingyan Shan hillside cemetery, the site of Lin's tomb, but riot police with shields, helmets and batons had cordoned off the area, and were allowing no one in, activists said.
Pan said other activists who tried to approach the trail-head for the hillside site of Lin Zhao's tomb had also been detained.
"Various people, including friends from Shandong, Wuxi and Shanghai, were taken away as soon as they get anywhere near the Lingyan Shan area," she said.
"The authorities in Suzhou dispatched a huge police presence here, around 5,000 people, at a conservative estimate," Pan added.
She said the head of the Jiangsu provincial police department was on the scene, personally overseeing the operation.
A friend of Xu's confirmed the morning raid on Xu's house.
"Police from Suzhou smashed in the door of her home and detained everyone who was staying there," the friend said.
Asked how many were detained, she replied: "Around 20 or 30 people."
Inside the police station
Jiangsu-based activist Xu Liyan said in a brief interview from inside the police station that she was in the process of "giving a statement," before switching off her phone.
Repeated calls to the cell phones of Heilongjiang activist Zhao Guirong, Guangdong netizen Zhang Wanhe, Jia Pin and Xu Lin rang unanswered or resulted in a "switched off" message on Wednesday.
The raid on Xu's home came after police pressured guesthouse managers to ask activists to leave shortly after checking in on Tuesday.
Xu had then offered her home as a place to sleep on the night before the planned ceremony.
Pan said she had held talks with local police and officials on Tuesday in the hope of negotiating a supervised version of the memorial for Lin, but that this had been overridden by orders from provincial authorities in Suzhou.
"The message came back from Suzhou that nobody is to be allowed to go up that hill, and so far, there has been no further progress in talks," Pan said.
An officer who answered the phone at the Suzhou municipal police department said the authorities could never have allowed the memorial to go ahead.
"This is politically sensitive; way too sensitive," the officer said.
"They were never going to let them [go to the cemetery]," he said.
Zhu Chengzhi, who was detained on Tuesday, told RFA on Wednesday afternoon he was on his way back to the southwestern city of Kunming under police escort.
"They sent in a gang of people to deal with us and detained me," Zhu said.
"They took me from Suzhou to Shanghai in a commercial vehicle, and then they bought me a plane ticket yesterday evening," he said. "Then they drove me to Hongqiao airport in their own car this morning."
A critic of Mao Zedong
Lin Zhao is the pen name of Peng Lingzhao, a star student at the prestigious Beijing University's Chinese language department in 1954, editing the student poetry publication "Red Mansion."
Branded a "rightist" and a "class enemy" in 1957 for her criticism of then supreme leader Mao Zedong's Anti-Rightist Movement targeting intellectuals, Lin also defended critics of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), during which tens of millions are believed to have starved to death.
Lin was handed a 20-year jail term for "counterrevolution" and subjected to brutal torture while in jail, but continued to write, using a hairpin dipped in her own blood after pen and paper were taken away from her.
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 plead guilty.
Lin's treatment at the hands of the state was believed to have led to the suicide of both of her parents at different times. She has a surviving sister who lives in the United States.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service and Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.