China Holds Activist Who Posted Umbrella Selfie on Tiananmen Square on June 4


2015.06.09
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china-umbrellaprotest-june82015.jpg Du Yanlin photographs himself with an umbrella on Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2015.
Photo courtesy of Du Yanlin

Authorities in the Chinese capital are holding an activist on public order charges after he raised a black umbrella on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on the student-led democracy movement, activists said.

Du Yanlin, 52, who has worked for outspoken artist and social critic Ai Weiwei, was detained by police after he posted a selfie of himself via Twitter holding a black umbrella on the square on Thursday.

Du, a tax adviser, was taken to the Dongcheng district police station, where he was held under criminal detention on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan reported via social media.

"He thought he should definitely do something for the 26th anniversary," Du's girlfiend Liu Yanjun told RFA. "From the point of view of political justice, he has done nothing wrong."

"We don't think he has done anything wrong," she said.

Du's son, Du Jiangfan, said his father is innocent of any wrongdoing.

"This would never happen anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of North Korea," Du Jiangfan said. "My father has committed no crime, and I don't really know what to do next."

He said Du had already received a visit from his lawyer, who said that he appeared to be in reasonably good mental and physical health, despite a chronic heart condition.

"He has had surgery in the past, and he had a stent put in, so he isn't in very good health," Du Jiangfan said.

He said he didn't believe the police could make the charges stand up, however.

"There's no way this is picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," Du Jiangfan said. "But there may be nothing we can do about it, because this whole thing makes no sense."

"My personal feeling is that they are really afraid of this sort of thing happening."

While it appears to be raining in Du's contentious selfie, his use of an umbrella also recalls last year's pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that campaigned for fully democratic elections for the city's chief executive in 2017.

The yellow umbrella—Du's was in mourning black—became a symbol of the student-led Umbrella Movement and the Occupy Central civil disobedience that blocked key highways in the former British colony for 79 days before being dispersed by police.

Over a hundred detained

Authorities across the internal border in mainland China detained more than 100 activists after they expressed public support for the former British colony's Umbrella Movement, which drew hundreds of thousands of people onto Hong Kong's streets at its height in October.

Mainland Chinese police have also detained a number of activists across the country in recent days for online comments and activities linked to the 26th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on the student-led democracy movement.

Police in the northern port city of Tianjin detained rights activist Wang Jian last Wednesday after he made comments related to the anniversary online, while veteran dissident Lu Hengxian was jailed for 10 days by police in the southwestern region of Guangxi after he began a hunger strike with dozens of other dissidents to mark June 4.

According to fellow Guangxi-based activist Zhou Shichen, 11 people had intended to take part in the 24-hour fast beginning last Wednesday, until police stepped in and took away the event's organizer.

"We did expect [Lu] to be detained, because he was the instigator of the hunger strike," Zhou told RFA. "The other people were taken to police stations near their homes to make a statement."

Dozens of dissidents and rights activists across the country were placed under police surveillance, with some forced to go on "vacation" away from their hometowns with state security police until after the sensitive anniversary.

Meanwhile, 13 people remain behind bars for marking the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed last year, according to the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from rights groups inside China.

They include veteran political journalist Gao Yu, jailed for seven years in April for "leaking state secrets overseas," and prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who faces up to 10 years' imprisonment for each of the ethnic hatred and public order charges against him.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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