Du, 48, is a Chinese documentary filmmaker and journalist who has previously worked for The New York Times as a freelance photographer. According to Du’s sister Du Jirong, Du was arrested and detained by Beijing police on December 16 over vague allegations he was ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’.
The journalist’s detention may have been linked to his recent writing, including a book on the rule of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin scheduled for publication in 2021. According to South China Morning Post, Du has been under scrutiny from the Chinese Communist Party for writing and editing a number of politically sensitive books, such as a documentation of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
The police have recently summoned Du for questioning on multiple occasions, during which he was asked to delete sensitive contents on his Twitter account, according to Weiquanwang, a website tracking detentions and persecution of activists and dissidents in China, as well as Voice of America. Authorities have also inquired about his book projects, the reports said.
Violations of press freedom and journalists’ rights have increased in China in recent years as authorities continue to expand their control over the media. A number of citizen journalists were detained for their coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic in China during 2020, while about a dozen foreign journalists have been expelled, partly due to the ongoing tension between the United States and China.
Last week, the IFJ documented the arrest of Haze Fan, a staff member who has been at the Bloomberg News Beijing bureau since 2017, on suspicion of taking part in activities endangering national security. In August, Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born Australian journalist who had worked in the English service of the state run television CGTN, was detained by the Chinese government for the same accusation leveled against Fan.
The IFJ said: “The vague and unjustified allegations against Du are often used by Chinese authorities to crack down on activists and citizen journalists. IFJ calls for Du’s immediate release and urges authorities to cease their suppression of press freedom and journalist independence.”