BEIJING (AP) — Beijing police have detained a Chinese news assistant for a Japanese newspaper, her family said Wednesday, in the latest in a string of detentions ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.
A group of Hong Kong university students perform a drama at a local high school in Hong Kong Thursday, May 22, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on a pro-democracy student movement in Beijing. Chinese authorities detained a human rights lawyer Friday in an ongoing clampdown on journalists, scholars and lawyers ahead of the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The Chinese reads "June 4, singing elegy." (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, said it was looking into the case but declined to provide further details.
The family of Xin Jian, an employee in the newspaper's bureau in the southwestern city of Chongqing, said she was detained on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking troubles. There was no immediate explanation of the allegations.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China expressed alarm over Xin's detention and called for Chinese authorities to present evidence that she broke the law or release her.
"Reports that her detention was connected with an interview she had conducted with human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, himself now under arrest, raise the disturbing possibility that she is being punished for the routine discharge of her professional duty on behalf of her employer," it said in a statement Wednesday.
Every year, the government attempts to prevent any commemorations or public discussions of the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown, but activists say this year has been one of the most severe clampdowns. Such restrictions usually are put in place a few days before the anniversary, but this year many dissidents say they have been placed under house arrest months ahead of the date and have been warned against talking to the media.
The scope of detentions appears to have been expanded to more people, and Chinese authorities have warned foreign journalists of "extreme consequences" if they report on sensitive issues ahead of the anniversary.
"The response by the Chinese authorities to the 25th anniversary has been harsher than in previous years, as they persist with trying to wipe the events of 4 June from memory," Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Those detained include the human rights lawyer, Pu, and a prominent journalist, Gao Yu. Ding Zilin, a founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, which represents families of those killed in the military attack on protesters, has been placed under house arrest.
Xin was taken away from her Chongqing home on May 13 after police detained Pu and four others for attending a May 3 commemoration of the crackdown.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said police initially told Xin's family that they wanted cooperation in Pu's case. Xin had assisted reporters in interviewing Pu, best known for his successful lobbying for the closure of Chinese labor camps. Police had used the camps to lock up people for up to four years without legal process.
A woman who answered the phone at Xin's house and identified herself as the news assistant's mother confirmed that she had been detained on the charges. She declined to provide further information, saying the phone line was tapped.
"We believe she is innocent," she said.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a request for information.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.