The United States has expressed concern about the disappearance of some of the most prominent Chinese lawyers and activists in China.
State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Tuesday that many human rights defenders in China have gone missing since mid-February, when authorities launched a crackdown to prevent any popular uprisings like those in the Arab world. He said Teng Biao, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong and Gu Chuan disappeared between February 16 and February 19.
The spokesman said the United States has expressed concern to China about the use of extralegal punishment against these and other human rights activists.
He said Washington continues to urge China to uphold its internationally recognized obligations of universal human rights, including the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
Beijing has rejected criticism of its human rights record as meddling in its internal affairs.
Authorities in China have shown increasing apprehension about the power of Internet social networks to mobilize citizens, as has been the case in the Arab world. The government has warned citizens to ignore online calls for peaceful anti-government demonstrations in China.
Beijing also has heightened its watch over Tibet around this month's anniversary of deadly 2008 anti-government riots in the Himalayan region.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.