The 41-year-old photographer and filmmaker disappeared on May 31, weeks after he had released a documentary on the extreme conditions of Chinese labor camps in May, called Women Above Ghosts’ Heads. His film focused on Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp where many detainees were practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline persecuted in China.
Du Bin had told New Tang Dynasty Television on May 29 that he chose the focus because he was “a human being.” Du had also written a 600-paged book on the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Hu Jia believes that these works attracted communist police attention and that they had treated Du as a political case. He pointed to the reluctance of the police to give reasons for Du’s arrest and their zeal in discussing his activism; police had charged Du Bin for “disturbing the public order,” and the detention center had accused Du of provoking public altercations on June 1, according to Hu.
In prison, Du Bin has been well-off, according to Du Jirong, his sister, writing on Twitter on June 17. He consoled other prisoners and cheerily declared that “prison is a life experience.” She wrote that Du became emotional upon seeing lawyers Pu Zhiqiang and Zhou Ze. Security guards filmed the entire visit while advising Jirong not to get too close to Du’s friends.
According to Jirong, by June 18, the family still had not received a detention notice, despite police statements that the notice had been sent out long ago.
Hu Jia spoke of Du Bin’s family having to conceal the photojournalist’s imprisonment from his father who suffered from pharynx cancer. Du’s father was led to believe that Du’s phone was not working and that he was vacationing in Hong Kong.