BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities detained another activist amid increasingly intense efforts to suppress commemorations of next week’s 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, his lawyers said Friday.
Wang Aizhong, a founder of the Southern Street Movement, which calls for an end to one-party rule, was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking troubles, according to his lawyers Zhang Xuezhong and Wu Kuiming.
Wang is at least the 20th person detained ahead of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, military attack on protesters, according to Amnesty International. Others have been put under house arrest or reported as missing.
Calls to the Guangzhou police were either unanswered or the people who answered hung up after learning it was from a media organization.
Communist leaders detain and harass activists every year ahead of June 4 but this year’s efforts to suppress China’s small number of active dissidents are unusually severe.
In Beijing, human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and four others were detained after they attended a private forum to commemorate the 1989 protest and its crackdown.
“In the past, these activists got no more than warnings, but formal detentions show the political climate has grown tenser,” said Zhang. “There are no grounds to persecute those who should discuss in private a historic event that did happen in our country’s history.”
It was not immediately clear on what ground the authorities accuse Wang of breaking the law, but the government wants to control activists like Wang ahead of the June 4 anniversary, Zhang said.
“It is a political detention,” Zhang said. “The motivation to detain him and the charge are not the same.”
Participants in Wang’s movement have protested in the street, holding up signs and banners to declare their demands. Several of them also have been detained ahead of the anniversary. Most of those detained have been charged with picking quarrels and provoking troubles, a charge critics say is used to disguise political persecution.
The human rights group Amnesty International has criticized Beijing for this year’s persecution of activists and said it is contrary to President Xi Jinping’s promise of openness.