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China Detains Rights Lawyer, Others Ahead of June 4 Anniversary

Chinese police have detained a prominent rights lawyer along with at least four others, in what fellow activists say is an attempt to intimidate those who wish to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Police detained Pu Zhiqiang early Tuesday on charges of "creating a disturbance." The news was passed on by Pu's colleagues, who were told by police that he is being held at Beijing's Number One Detention Center.

Authorities have not commented on any charges against Pu. But Si Weijiang, a lawyer, says he believes authorities are angry at Pu for attending a Beijing seminar on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown.

Dissidents say four others (Liu Di, Xu Yonyu, Hao Jian and Hu Shigen) were also detained Tuesday after attending the same seminar on Saturday.

Zhang Xianling, the mother of a June 4 victim who also attended the seminar Saturday, told VOA's Mandarin service that they did not break any laws.

"It is not violating any law at all. You tell me which rule [prohibits] people from discussing the June 4th event. You are just secretly blocking web browsing. However , there is no law that states openly that discussing the June 4th event is prohibited. We discussed this event at the home of a private citizen."

Chinese authorities regularly lock up activists in the weeks before the highly sensitive anniversary, both to keep them from organizing events and to discourage and intimidate others from doing so.

Pu is a well-known free speech lawyer. He has represented clients such as dissident artist Ai Weiwei and members of the New Citizens Movement, which campaigns against official corruption. He was also a participant in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

It has been almost 25 years since Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved in to crush the student-led demonstration. The crackdown triggered worldwide condemnation, with estimates of those killed ranging from several hundred to several thousand people.

China still considers the incident a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and has never admitted any wrongdoing in its handling of the uprising. It has never disclosed an official death toll or other key details on the crackdown, which is not discussed in state media.

Government censors also work hard to erase any reference to the incident in the country's very popular social media outlets.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.)

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