This article was first published on China Change website on May 30, 2019
In the evening of May 16, Deng Chuanbing (邓传彬) posted a picture of a “Remember 8964” wine bottle on Twitter. Father of two school children, he lives in a town in Yibin, Sichuan province. Within half an hour, local police arrived. They ringed him from outside asking him to flash the upstairs lights to prove that he was home. We don’t know what the conversation was like, but he posted on WeChat, “I caved in again, and deleted the wine bottle photo.”
The wine bottle Deng Chuanbin had photographed at a friend’s home some time ago was not the same wine bottle that led to the incarceration of four men in Chengdu for three years without trial. It wasn’t until recently that three of them were released on probation and one remains in jail for refusing to admit guilt. Deng’s had the same label, transparent and cohesive, affixed to a regular wine bottle.
Just a photo of a wine bottle with the phrase “Remember 8964” proves too much for the Chinese Communist party. At four in the morning, a swarm of police entered his house in the midst of lush greeneries and rice patties. He woke up his son, an elementary schooler, and told him that he had to go away for a while to do some business. The boy asked him whether he’d be gone for more than a day or two; he said it would be longer. As he spoke, he was encircled by officers while others looked around his house and videotaped.
Around 10 the next morning, Deng called his wife who works in a factory in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, using the cellphone of the local police chief. He told her that he’d be away from home for a while. The call lasted for about one minute.
By that evening, police had raided his home, cut off the family’s Wifi, and took away their router in addition to all of his electronics: cellphones, iPad, laptop, desktop, video camera, camera, hard drives, and flash drives. His aging parents were shown a detention notice alleging Deng to have “provoked trouble” (寻衅滋事) and forced to sign it. They were given neither a copy of the notice nor a list of confiscated items.
One can argue the wisdom of posting such a photo at such a sensitive time, but the real question is: Why can’t Deng Chuanbin, or anyone in China, post a photo like that? The world has had too much of such “wisdom” dealing with an increasingly totalitarian China for our own good.
On May 20, a few men searched Deng’s home again (he lives with his parents to facilitate his children’s schooling), ransacked his room, and took away, among other things, cables for all the electronic devices. The police told the family not to hire lawyers for him.
On May 24, a lawyer met with Deng Chuanbin at Nanxi District Detention Center of Yibin city. He said he wasn’t mistreated or beaten in custody. He felt sorry for his children as he is the only parent looking after them.
Deng Chuanbin’s activism embodies the best of China’s grassroots aspirations over the past two decades: In the early 2000s, he was a young migrant worker in Guangdong. When his home province of Sichuan was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2008 that killed thousands of schoolchildren and residents, he became a volunteer and rushed back to provide aid. They call it Year One of China’s civil society—the first time Chinese society acted on its own accord, not by the government’s direction. He stayed in the earthquake zone for two years working for various teams to build houses and help the locals to rebuild their life.
He became involved in the rights defense movement, active both online and offline. For nearly ten years, he has been part of NGO programs that help treat and rehabilitate HIV patients, victims of contaminated blood, in Henan province.
He learned to be a documentary maker and, over the past few years, he interviewed political prisoners. The project came to an end after it was leaked to the police.
This is not the first time he was targeted in connection with the Tiananmen anniversary. In 2014, he was forced to leave his home in Zhongshan, Guangdong, on June 3. The next day, he was taken out of the province by two domestic security police. They threatened his wife and older brother; they told him that if he came back to Zhongshan, they would beat him to death.
In May 2015, he was interrogated by police for his activities, in particular a two-week training he had attended that March. He was subsequently barred from leaving China on June 7, 2015, to attend the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) training in Geneva. China Change has a translation of his account of the interrogation.
He had recently returned Sichuan from visiting his wife in Guangdong. Along the way there and back, he had visited activist friends, some of them recently released from prison, others, such as Zhen Jianghua, still behind bars.
“The biggest blow this summons dealt on me is this,” Deng wrote in 2015. “Home, my home, is no longer safe. The authorities have many means to deal with you, and they can turn your entire family into hostages.”
Deng is on medication for low thyroid.
More Detentions in Recent Days
On May 13, Hubei rights activist Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) was kidnapped by five unidentified people from a guesthouse in the southwest outskirts of Beijing. He has since been out of contact. Yin was previously imprisoned for three years and six months for group demonstration in Hubei in support of the 709 lawyers. He was released last December.
On May 14, in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, dissident Wang Mo (王默) was detained. Friends believe that it had to do in part with the coming June 4th anniversary, as well as Wang Mo’s involvement in raising funds for Guangxi lawyer Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿) who was detained in late April.
Wang Mo was just released from prison on April 2 after serving four and half years for supporting the Occupy Central in Hong Kong. His November 2015 court statement, “I Committed No Crime Trying to Subvert the Communist Regime,” was widely praised by the dissident community for its eloquence, honesty, and straightforwardness.
Wang Mo told friends that he had yet to adjust and suffered from insomnia and anxiety since his release.
On May 15 in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, dissident and former prosecutor Shen Liangqing (沈良庆) was walking his dog when two men jumped out of a dark corner and kidnapped him. He cried for help thinking he was being attacked by robbers. Then a middle aged man emerged claiming he was a police officer and flashed his ID. Shen was then black-hooded, taken into a car, and driven to Baohe Public Security Bureau.
For days the news of his disappearance circled on Twitter. A local friend who suspected that Shen had been taken into custody was summoned by police. A notice of detention addressed to Shen’s sister appeared a few days ago but it bears no name of the detainee and was deemed by lawyers as an invalid document.
His dog was taken along with him to the police station. He doesn’t know the whereabouts of his dog as the police refused to send it to a friend of his per his request.
On May 28, lawyer Liu Hao and Shen’s sister met with Shen Liangqing in the detention center and learned the detailsof Shen’s kidnapping as well as the subject of interrogations: the 30th anniversary of June 4th massacre and interviews he has given to overseas media. For 24 hours, they wouldn’t let the recalcitrant dissident sleep, eat, drink water, or use the toilet.
In 2015, he was detained for nine days for retweeting a social media post about the death toll of the warehouse explosions in Tianjin. Last year he was briefly detained again for criticizing Xi Jinping’s amendment of the Constitution to remove term limits.
At midnight of May 28, Beijing activist Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) was detained and his home raided. Police claimed that Zhang possessed guns. In 2013 Zhang was sentenced to two years in prison for taking part in the New Citizens Movement demonstrations in Beijing’s crowded commercial districts.
Also on May 28, six artists from Beijing Songzhuang art colony disappeared in Nanjing. They were on tour showing an art exhibit called “Conscience Movement in China.” Yesterday afternoon, Nanjing police arrived in Beijing and raided the home of lead artist Zhui Hun (追魂).
On May 27, a young artist named Zhang Yue (张玥) acknowledged the June 4th Massacre during the 13th AAC Art China award ceremony held in the Forbidden City. He said that he had to make concessions to censorship in his work and he was “embarrassed” to accept an award standing so close to Tiananmen Square on the 30th anniversary of June 4, 1989. Now his name, as well as his speech, have been scrubbed off China’s intranet.
Labor crackdown continued in China, largely unnoticed. Following the disappearance of three NGO workers earlier this month, a social worker named Tong Feifei (童菲菲) disappeared on May 22. According to @feministChina, she works at Guangdong Mumian Social Work Association, a labor NGO focusing on migrant worker rights advocacy. Tong Feifei is a graduate of sociology at Peking University. According to the China Labor Bulletin, she conducts training for social workers. She also opened community classrooms in Guangzhou to serve migrant workers.