Chinese Journalist Said to Be Detained in Beijing

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BEIJING -- A Chinese journalist who recently released a documentary about a forced labor camp and has worked as a freelance photographer for The New York Times has been detained by police officers in Beijing, his friends and family members said this week.

Two copies of an unsigned police warrant dated June 1 found recently by friends in the apartment of the journalist, Du Bin, said that it had been issued for "disturbing order at a public place." That falls under an administrative statute the police can use to hold people for up to 15 days for minor offenses, said Jerome A. Cohen, a scholar of Chinese law at New York University.

The police could release the detainee during that period, move that person to China's "re-education through labor" system, or seek a formal criminal charge, Mr. Cohen said.

One friend of Mr. Du said he had heard that the police were investigating the journalist, who is 41, for illegal business activity related to his books, many of which are on politically delicate subjects. It is a charge that officials have used before against Chinese journalists writing books on such subjects even when, as with Mr. Du, the books have been published outside mainland China.

His most recent book, "Tiananmen Massacre," is mostly a compilation of previously published accounts from various sources of the government crackdown of June 4, 1989. It was released in late May by Mirror Books, which has offices in New York and Hong Kong.

Friends of Mr. Du, a self-taught photographer, also said they believed the authorities had been angered by his work on the hourlong documentary film he recently completed on the Masanjia labor camp and what inmates described as abuses there.

Many of the Masanjia camp's prisoners are petitioners seeking redress from the state for perceived wrongs. Other prisoners include practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is banned in China.

Mr. Du had also shown the film at least once in Hong Kong, and a version was posted online on May 1.

Mr. Du was escorted from his apartment on May 31 by more than 10 police officers, two of them in uniforms and the rest in plain clothes, according to two friends who had spoken with the landlord's family. Relatives of Mr. Du said the police had not notified them of his whereabouts or why he is being held.

Human rights advocates say the new party leadership under President Xi Jinping has continued the hard-line approach toward outspoken Chinese liberals and dissidents that characterized the decade-long rule of his predecessor, Hu Jintao. On Sunday, a brother-in-law of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was given an extraordinary sentence of 11 years in prison on fraud charges.

Mr. Du's photography work, some of which has appeared in The Times, has covered a wide range of subjects, from petitioners to the Three Gorges Dam to the village of Liangjiahe, where Mr. Xi lived for seven years during the Cultural Revolution. Among the subjects of his books are Mao Zedong's reign, the Japanese invasion of China and the rebel artist Ai Weiwei. A novella, "Toothbrush," is set in a dystopian society ruled by a single party.

Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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