Police in China beat and detained political activists marking the 23rd anniversary of the brutal crackdown of the Tiananmen democracy protests on Sunday, rights campaigners said.
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.
"Around 20 rights defenders were stopped by police and beaten this morning on May First Square," Shi Liping, the wife of activist Lin Bingxing, told AFP by phone from Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province.
"The police said they were going to 'beat them to death'. They took about eight people into custody, including my husband. I fear he has been beaten badly."
Police in Fuzhou, when contacted by AFP, denied anyone had been detained.
People's Liberation Army soldiers stormed into central Beijing on June 3-4, 1989, firing upon unarmed demonstrators and citizens, killing hundreds if not thousands, as they ended six weeks of democracy protests on Tiananmen Square.
Over two decades later, Beijing still considers the incident a "counter revolutionary rebellion" and a "political storm" and has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing or consider compensation for those killed.
In Beijing, police detained 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.
"No one was beaten, but there were no legal procedures either, they just forced us on to the bus and are sending us home."
Any mention of the 1989 protests is banned in state media. The overseas dissident website www.molihua.org in recent days urged those opposed to the crackdown to dress in black and "stroll" in public places throughout China on June 3-4.
The call, which spread through numerous microblogs, was similar to calls last year urging Chinese to hold protests akin to those that spread through the Arab world.
In recent days in the Wansheng district of Chongqing thousands of people have "strolled" down the main street in protest against local government while businesses have been on strike, locals and microblog postings said.
When contacted by AFP, Wangsheng police refused to confirm the veracity of photos posted on microblogs showing more than 10,000 people marching on Friday night.
Veteran dissident Hu Jia said on his microblog that police had stepped up security around the homes of numerous political activists and social critics in Beijing.
Rights lawyers said police had also contacted them and warned against participating in activities marking the crackdown.
"It's been more than three decades since the beginning of the 'reform and opening' era in China, yet the government has displayed little interest in reforming or opening when it comes to the protests and bloodshed from 1989," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
"But demands inside China for meaningful legal reform and accountability are only increasing despite government resistance," she said in a statement.
The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of victims' relatives of the 1989 crackdown, issued an annual open letter to the government last week calling for the end of communist rule and a reassessment of the official verdict on the protests.
"So long as the Tiananmen Mothers exist, our struggle for justice will not cease," the letter, signed by 121 members, said.
The group has documented the deaths of 203 people killed by soldiers during the crackdown. Thousands were arrested and served time in prison.