Friends and family of Chinese filmmaker and former New York Times photographer Du Bin say he appears to have been taken away by Chinese police after being missing from his Beijing home for more than 10 days.
Du last communicated with his family on May 31. Speaking to VOA by phone, his friend and fellow activist Hu Jia said a police summons dated June 1 was later found in Du's home, demanding that the filmmaker report to authorities on suspicion of disturbing public order.
Du released a documentary in early May, profiling a women's labor camp in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning, and showing former inmates describing degrading and humiliating conditions. The Chinese government banned the film.
Later in the month, Du released a book about the Chinese government's deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Hu said he believes Chinese police secretly detained Du in response to the book's publication.
"The book, titled Tiananmen Massacre, was published in bookstores in Hong Kong. This name did not conceal anything, and testified to the true facts against the authorities. It took years [for Du] to compile the documents by going to second-hand book stores to find original People's Liberation Army papers and magazines praising the troops who crushed the June 4th movement,” Hi said.
Chinese troops backed by tanks crushed the student-led demonstration on June 4, 1989, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of people. Beijing considers the protest to be a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and blocks annual attempts by pro-democracy activists to commemorate the killings.
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders said Chinese police already had stepped up surveillance of Du after the release of the film about the Masanjia labor camp. It said he was editing more interviews with former Masanjia detainees at the time of his apparent detention, which came four days before the 24th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown.
Hu said he went to the police station responsible for the neighborhood where Du lives to inquire about the filmmaker, but was told it had no information.
“The authorities continued to put on an act, saying they did not know anything about this. I saw the document - his summons. Their actions did not follow legal procedures and had no legal basis,” he said.
In a separate phone conversation with VOA, the filmmaker's sister Du Jirong said she does not know where he is.
“The authorities did not notify anyone. We, the immediate family, did not receive written notification regarding my older brother," Du said.
Chinese authorities can place a person under administrative detention for 15 days for "disturbing public order" without alerting family members. Detention on criminal charges requires family notification except in cases related to state security.
Reporters Without Borders called on China to declare its reason for purportedly arresting Du Bin and stop what it called his illegal detention.