An editorial in the mainland state media hit out at two detained activists for breaking the law, but at the same time made an unusual admission that the government has not worked out how to handle dissenting voices that increasingly challenge Communist Party rule.
The editorial in the Global Times was the state media's first mention of the detention of the two prominent human rights advocates, Guo Feixiong and Xu Zhiyong.
The tabloid, affiliated with the People's Daily, said the activists were "intoxicated with their courage" and their activities posted a threat to social stability.
Guo, also known as Yang Maodong, was detained on August 8 on a charge of disrupting public order in Guangdong. Xu was detained by Beijing police in July on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in public places".
"Obviously, China has not found a mature way to deal with these confrontational individuals," the editorial said.
"On the one hand, they play a new role in society and what they do is not all negative. But on the other hand, they pose a danger to the current social governance system and long-term social stability," it said.
Dr Xigen Li, an associate professor at City University's department of media and communication, said it was a positive move for state-controlled media to turn their eye on human rights activists in China as their existence "is a phenomenon that the government cannot ignore and has to deal with in a constructive manner".