Chinese authorities have reportedly detained documentary filmmaker Deng Chuanbin after he tweeted an image of a liquor bottle labelled “64” – a reference to the date of the Tiananmen Square Massacre which occurred on June 4, 1989.

Sichuan police arrested Deng at his home in Yibin last Friday, according to the NGO coalition, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). The arrest came hours after he posted a Twitter photo of a clear spirit with a label that read “ba jiu,” a near homophone of “89,” above an illustration of the iconic “tank man” – an unidentified man who stood in front of a row of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the crackdown.

The massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army were deployed to suppress protesters in Beijing. Chinese authorities have heavily censored references to the crackdown.

Deng Chuanbin
Deng Chuanbin. Photo: Chinese Human Rights Defenders/Twitter.

The filmmaker received a phone call from police 30 minutes after tweeting the image despite quickly deleting the post, said CHRD. Police seized three mobile phones, a computer, laptop, iPad, memory cards and compact camera while at his home. Deng is reportedly being held in Nanxi District Detention Centre for “picking quarrels” – a charge frequently levelled against critics of the government.

See also: How ‘picking quarrels’ became Beijing’s go-to weapon in anti-dissident lawfare

tiananmen baijiu
Baijiu bottles commemorating the Tiananmen massacre. Photo: Web.

CHRD said police returned to raid Deng’s home for an hour, taking a range of electronic equipment.

Full coverage: The 1989 Tiananmen Massacre

In 2016, the Chinese government arrested Fu Hailu, Zhang Jinyong, Luo Fuyu and Chen Bing in connection with the bottles. They were charged with “inciting subversion of state power” in July that year, but their trial only took place at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court in April.

june 4 baijiu activists Top: Fu Hailu and Luo Fuyu. Bottom: Zhang Jinyong and Chen Bing.
Top: Fu Hailu and Luo Fuyu. Bottom: Zhang Jinyong and Chen Bing.

Zhang and Luo were each handed a three-year prison term, suspended for four years. Fu received a three-year prison term, which was suspended for five years.

Deng, also known as Huang Huang, is an independent filmmaker who has collaborated with Beijing artist Ai Weiwei. He claims to have previously faced intimidation by authorities, including detention in 2015 to prevent him from attending a human rights seminar in Geneva.

Next month marks 30 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Each year Chinese authorities clamp down on references to the crackdown in the lead up to the anniversary, by placing outspoken dissidents on house arrest or in detention.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.