China Detains Two Over '1989' Tiananmen Crackdown Labels on Spirits

china-booze-05302016.jpg Limited-edition bottles of liquor commemorating the bloody military crackdown on the student-led democracy movement of 1989.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have detained two people who tried to sell and promote limited-edition bottles of liquor commemorating the bloody military crackdown on the student-led democracy movement of 1989.

Teahouse proprietor Fu Hailu and poet Ma Qing were taken away by police in the provincial capital Chengdu after they brought out the alcohol, which bore the words "June 4, 1989" and a cartoon of a man in front of an advancing column of tanks on the label. The label also says "Never forget, never give up."

The label says that the "baijiu" spirit has matured for 27 years, the length of time since People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops put an end to weeks of student protests on Tiananmen Square, using tanks and machine guns on largely unarmed civilians.

Fu, 30, is now being held under criminal detention on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," while Ma was brought back to her home to attend a police search in handcuffs, before being taken away again, according to posts by supporters on Twitter.

Fu was taken away from a teahouse he has just opened in Chengdu on May 28, and police in his home district of Chenghua later issued a formal notification of criminal detention. He is being held in the Chengdu Detention Center, Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper reported.

"The police didn't give me an explanation. They didn't say that it was to do with the [commemorative bottles of] spirit, or whether it was something else," Fu's wife Liu Tianyan told RFA.

"It had stuff printed on the label that was to do with June 4, 1989, but I saw that online; he never mentioned it to me," she said.

"If it is about the spirits, I have my doubts that this amounts to incitement to subvert state power," Liu added.

According to the Ming Pao, the drink had been designed for private circulation among groups of friends on social media, rather than for public sale.

It said Ma hadn't been involved in producing the bottles, but had used her WeChat social media account to promote them.

The detentions came as China implements nationwide security measures aimed at preventing any public memorials linked to the June 4 crackdown, which was styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

High-profile figures, including the relatives of those who died, have been told to leave town under police supervision, or placed under tight surveillance ahead of the politically sensitive anniversary.

Retired Shandong University professor and veteran democracy activist Sun Wenguang said the detentions in Chengdu reflect suppression of dissenting voices across the whole country.

"Governments around the country are getting the paranoid jitters, because it's nearly the anniversary of June 4," Sun told RFA.

"I am on the 21st floor, and the authorities have stationed police officers round the clock outside the door of my apartment," he said.

"They are sleeping in the corridor, round the clock."

Souls of the dead

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the alcohol would have been popular among those who have called repeatedly for a reappraisal of the official view on the student-led protests.

"I don't even drink, but I would have wanted to buy one of these bottles very much indeed," Hu said. "I would have taken it to make offerings to the souls of the dead on Tiananmen Square."

"Nothing could be more apt."

Earlier this month, in the northern city of Zhengzhou, rights activist Yu Shiwen began refusing food in protest against his prolonged pretrial detention, his wife and lawyer told RFA.

Yu, who was detained during an event marking the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre two years ago, is charged with "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," but his case has been subjected to prolonged and repeated delays.

"They are acting in breach of the Criminal Procedure Law," Yu's wife Chen Wei told RFA in a recent interview. "His case doesn't fit under any of the exceptions [allowing pretrial detention to be extended]."

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to mark the massacre, prompting minor scuffles with police as they approached Beijing's Central Liaison Office in the former British colony.

Lee Cheuk-yan, who heads the organizing Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China group, played down a split with student unions in the city, who will hold their first separate candlelight vigil on June 4 since the memorial gatherings began.

"I don't see this as a conflict with the younger generation, because everyone sees the dictatorship of the central government as oppressive to the people of Hong Kong," Lee told reporters.

"If that's the case, they we should be able to work together to end one-party rule, to change China, and to build democracy, shouldn't we?" he said.

"I believe that there is a consensus on this issue."

Reported by Gao Shan and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing, Wong Si-lam and Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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