A day before the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on democracy activists, it was like any given Sunday at the grand public square, said to be the biggest in the world. Thousands of foreign and domestic tourists milled around under an overcast Beijing sky as policemen kept what seemed like a routine watch - if extra security personnel were deployed, they were not obvious.
But the calm was uneasy. Elsewhere in China, police allegedly detained activists marking the intervening night between June 3 and June 4, 1989 when an unknown number - figures range between hundreds and thousands - of civilians were killed when the Communist Party of China (CPC) under Deng Xiaoping ordered the violent crackdown.
The ruling CPC continues to maintain the movement was a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and routinely dismisses calls to revisit and investigate the incident. It has been all but scrubbed clean from the official narrative.
"Officers used violence against rights defenders in the southeast Fujian province and detained them, while more than 30 petitioners were held in Beijing and forced to return to their home province, the activists reported," an AFP report said.
In Beijing, police arrested at least 30 activists from eastern China's Zhejiang province at a Beijing railway station Saturday and put them on a bus to their hometown of Wuxi.
"The police told us it was because of June 4 (the day of the crackdown), that during sensitive periods they had to clean up unstable elements," petitioner Xie Qiming, told AFP from the bus.
An activist group Tiananmen Mothers, comprising parents and friends of those killed in the crackdown, released an open letter to the Chinese government calling for political reforms on the eve of the anniversary. The letter was published on the US-based citizen journalism website Boxun on May 31.
"We sincerely hope that (China's) new leaders will regard it as a priority and give promises to the public to avoid a potential large-scale riot," the letter said.
The group quoted remarks by Premier Wen Jiabao, who has said in the past that "what the Chinese people have achieved economically will vanish if political reforms are not carried out."
The group also claimed that earlier this week the father of a man killed in the incident hanged himself in protest after two decades of failed attempts to seek government redress. The body of 73-year-old Ya Weilin's was found in an underground parking garage below his residential complex in Beijing.