Four Chinese activists have been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” in connection with bottles of alcohol which featured labels commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Formal arrest notices were issued for Fu Hailu, Zhang Juanyong, Luo Fuyu, and Chen Bing, who are now being held in a Chengdu police station. Fu, Zhang and Luo were officially arrested on Tuesday, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Fu Hailu, Luo Fuyu, Zhang Juanyong, and Cheng Bing (from left to right). Photos: Weiquanwang.

According to Fu’s wife, Zhang and Luo were arrested on the same day as her husband and were likely arrested for the same reason.

The bottles of baijiu, a popular liquor in China, featured labels with the name “Ba Jiu Liu Si,” meaning eight nine six four, the date of the massacre. The name plays on the fact that Chinese for liquor, “jiu”, and the word for nine sound similar. It said “Never forget, never give up,” and featured a picture that recalled the iconic “tank man” photograph taken in 1989. The liquor was labelled as having matured for 27 years, marking the 27th anniversary of the incident.

Baijiu bottles commemorating the Tiananmen massacre. Photo: Web.

Fu was arrested for allegedly producing the liquor at the end of May. The police told Luo’s wife after her husband was detained that he had designed the label, though she had no previous knowledge of the matter, she told RFA.

Chen Bing, whose brother was a leader of the Sichuan student movement in 1989, was previously released on bail after being detained on June 21. He has also been formally arrested and is also being held in Chengdu.

Fu’s lawyer Ran Tong told RFA he was shocked by the arrest. He said their liquor business wasn’t good, and they were only trying to use the wordplay on “remember eight nine six four” as a selling point to improve sales. The Trade and Industry Bureau should handle the case if there was a problem with the packaging, he said.

People previously detained for the same incident include a poet who had shared a picture of the baijiu bottles on her WeChat account.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.