China has detained an American and New Zealander for plotting violent terrorist activities.

The two men have been identified as ethnic-Chinese foreign nationals: Benjamin Lan of the United States and Sun Gang of New Zealand.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, says the pair was sent to China by a foreign organization to make trouble. She said the two men intended to commit "violent and terrorist acts" and were detained by police in Beijing. She said their actions violated Chinese law and the case is under investigation "at this moment."

The spokeswoman declined to give any details on the men's association, who sent them, how long they have been in custody or what charges they may face.

But a little-known pro-democracy group in California, called the "China Federation Foundation," says the two were detained May 12. The group said the men had intended to "promote democracy" and investigate the outbreak of SARS in China.

A U-S Embassy spokeswoman says diplomats have contacted Chinese officials and visited Mr. Lan in detention. An official at the New Zealand Embassy confirms diplomats have spoken to Chinese authorities about the case but would give no additional details.

China's communist system bans public political dissent and Chinese courts often impose long prison terms to convicted protesters, even those who use peaceful means.