Chinese police have detained independent documentary filmmaker and writer Du Bin in Beijing, a month before the Taiwan release of his book on the rule of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
Friends of the 48-year-old former photojournalist said Du was being held at a detention centre in Daxing district, accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a catch-all charge police often used to stifle dissent.
His family had been warned not to speak to the media, the friends said.
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Lawyer Wang Yu posted a message on Twitter saying Du was taken away by police on Wednesday.
Du formerly worked for The New York Times as a freelance photographer, but he was pressured by the Chinese authorities to stop in 2011.
He has since produced a number of well-known documentaries focusing on human rights violations and political events in China, and published several books on the Communist Party’s history.
In 2013, he was held for 37 days after he released a documentary exposing the inhumane treatment of Falun Gong practitioners at a labour reform facility in Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
According to his friends, Du was preparing to publish a new book next year on Lenin’s experiments with communism in the former Soviet Union.
Wu Yangwei, a Guangzhou-based activist, said Du’s detention could be related to his publishing projects.
“The authorities have already significantly tightened control over the media and the internet in China and are extending control over publishing overseas now, as well as the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter outside China,” Wu said.
Du’s criticism of the authorities made him both vulnerable and an obvious target, Wu said.
“The authorities have purged civil society [in China] in the past few years, suppressing free speech and any defiant activities,” he said. “[Activists in China] now live in a state of despair and fear, so I doubt that the detention [of Du] will cause any pushback.”
On Tuesday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said China topped the global ranking of imprisoned journalists for a second year in a row, with at least 47 journalists behind bars since December last year.
Zhang Zhan, one of the country’s “citizen journalists” who work independently and report through social media, is expected to face trial later this month for her reporting activities in Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
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