The United States is urging China to free government critics detained or placed under house arrest in the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf Tuesday said China is a growing country and should allow for more political discussion, especially before such a historical anniversary as the June 4 Tiananmen Square incident.
Dozens of activists, journalists and lawyers were detained or placed under house arrest ahead of the anniversary of China's violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in 1989.
On Tuesday, China defended its detention of the critics as "lawful."
When asked why China was doing so, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his country is acting according to the law.
"In China, there are only law breakers - there are no so-called dissidents. The relevant departments of the Chinese government act according to the law. China's legal authority should be respected," said Hong.
Harsher than usual
It has become an annual tradition for Beijing to round up activists ahead of the sensitive anniversary, but this year the crackdown has been harsher than usual.
The latest to be held is Chinese-born Australian artist Guo Jian, who was taken away by police Sunday night, just after the Financial Times published an interview with him.
China does not allow public discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, in which many hundreds, possibly even thousands, of protesters were killed by Chinese soldiers.
An official death toll has never been released.
Hong, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said China "long ago reached a conclusion" about the incident.
Security was tighter than usual in Beijing on the eve of the anniversary Tuesday, with expanded police patrols and security checkpoints throughout the city.