Chinese authorities have raised security measures to unprecedented levels in the capital, rounding up and beating people trying to lodge complaints against officials as the country's parliaments meet for their annual sessions.
"They're not letting petitioners stay in Beijing. Before they would just tell them [to leave], but now they are beating, dragging, and forcing them," said one petitioner, who requested anonymity.
"Some petitioners were bleeding from the beatings they got. It doesn't matter where we hide. Some were even in the hills, or hiding in the dark, or on public transport," the petitioner said.
"They are detaining them everywhere .. .breaking down doors and smashing windows to find them ... There are police cars one after the other looking for petitioners ... The police beat up petitioners on sight now. They don't need a reason," the petitioner added.
Beijing resident Wu Tianli said there were rows of police stationed all along the roads leading to key government buildings.
"It's crazy this year, really crazy," Wu said. "They have checkpoints with barriers and a small table every 100 meters or so along Xinhuamen Avenue. Anyone going past has to pass through a police check."
"The police are checking people's bags ... This year, the tiger is holding a meeting in its cage."
"The red armband brigade used to be scattered here and there, but now there's a huge mass of them, standing in groups of three and four," Wu said.
"They've brought in students from the police academies to patrol the streets ... This is an unprecedented level of security," she added.
Campaigners hoping to carry the “Jasmine revolution” from North Africa and the Middle East to China have repeatedly posted online calls for regular weekend demonstrations in dozens of Chinese cities.
So far, the Jasmine rallies appear to have attracted more police and journalists than protesters, however.
The organizers say the 100 or more political activists who have been held under house arrest, detained, or formally charged with subversion since the first appeal was posted are unconnected with their campaign.
However, authorities have ramped up security in Beijing ahead of China's parliamentary sessions.
Nearly 180,000 police, firefighters, and other security personnel have been drafted to patrol Beijing during the sessions, while the city has recruited 560,000 citizen volunteers to monitor the capital's streets, the local Beijing News said.
The English-language China Daily said checks at subway, bus and ,train stations had been stepped up, while vehicles coming from outside the city would be banned and air traffic over the capital restricted.
The Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said the authorities had swept up around 200 individuals in Beijing and taken them to the Jiujingzhuang unofficial detention center, or "black jail."
Thousands of petitioners come to Beijing each year to seek redress for complaints against their local governments.
They are frequently held in "black jails," which stand outside the criminal justice system, and are escorted back to their hometowns by local governments, which run representative offices in the capital for the purpose.
Among them this year was Liu Mengxiong, who is protesting at the treatment of campaigning father Zhao Lianhai, who tried to win redress for the children sickened and killed by melamine-tainted infant formula in 2008.
"The trial of Zhao Lianhai by [Beijing's] Daxing district court was a serious violation of criminal appeal law and the legal representation law," Liu said.
"He was held beyond the legal limit, his trial was held behind closed doors, and he was prevented from seeing a lawyer, and the Supreme People's Court has a legal duty to pursue those responsible," he said.
Zhao, whose child was one of 300,000 made ill by infant formula milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail by Beijing's Daxing District People's Court on Nov. 11.
He was later released on medical parole and dismissed his legal team, although the sentence was never revoked.
A recent opinion poll by the Communist Party newspaper website, people.com.cn, found that social security issues topped the lists of concerns ahead of this year's National People Congress (NPC), which starts its annual session on Saturday, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which opened in Beijing on Thursday.
The poll found that among more than 95,300 respondents, 95 percent believe the current pension system is unreasonable, requiring rapid reforms, the website said.
Many of those who have petitioned the central government in recent years have been contract teachers, who enjoy lower pay and scant social benefits compared with their civil-service counterparts.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service and by Fung Yat-yiu for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.