Beijing authorities admitted on June 13 that human rights activist and photojournalist, Du Bin, who disappeared on May 31, had been taken into police custody.
Two days before he was detained by Chinese security officials, Du Bin shared his thoughts in an interview with New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television.
The 41-year-old photographer and filmmaker had recently documented the extreme conditions of Chinese labor camps in his film, Women Above Ghosts’ Heads. Many detainees in the labor camp he focused on, called Masanjia, were adherents of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice that is persecuted in China.
The documentary included graphic descriptions of violent and excruciating torture, devised by guards at Masanjia and carried out systematically against adherents of Falun Gong, and sometimes petitioners.
When asked why he chose to focus on Falun Gong, known to be a highly politically sensitive topic in China, given the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing persecution of adherents, he said “Actually, this is quite simple. Because I’m a human being.”
He added: “My friends have told me before not to touch the Falun Gong issue, that whoever touches it dies. I laughed, I said that I don’t care what people believe, they’re first of all people, secondly, they’re women, and thirdly, we were all given birth to by women… If you can tolerate these things, then you’re not a human.” His documentary was based on descriptions of torture provided by a female protagonist, Liu Hua, including torture targeting women’s vaginas.
Du said he knew he had taken great risks to make the film, but “there are certain things that you just do, and if you don’t do them, you’ll regret it in the future.”
Likely adding to the authorities’ anger with Du was a 600-page book he published in Hong Kong about the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, which included detailed anecdotes from the bloody military suppression.
“We shouldn’t show fear in the face of anyone or any regime,” he told NTD in the interview. “That is true power, the power of telling the truth.”
“Why have all Chinese intellectuals remained silent?” he asked. “At this, I am deeply regretful.”
Du was detained five days before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a period when communist authorities typically arrest more activists and dissidents.
Du Jirong, Du Bin’s sister, was told on June 13 by a police officer at the You’anmen station in Beijing that her brother was being kept at a detention facility, according to the Associated Press. The family had not received a formal notification to that effect however, she said.
In a statement released shortly after Du’s disappearance, Catherine Barber, Amnesty International’s Asia Program director, suggested the arrest may have had something to do with Du’s activism.
“Du Bin has done extensive media work uncovering torture and deplorable conditions in re-education through labor camps,” she said. “This could well be a case of the Chinese authorities trying to ‘disappear’ an inconvenient whistle blower and government critic.”