European Film Academy, Dutch Festivals Call for Release of Chinese Filmmaker

Huang Huang
Chinese Human Rights Defenders/Twitter.

Documentary director Deng Chuanbin, also known as Huang Huang, was arrested by Chinese authorities for referencing the Tiananmen Square protests in a tweet.

The European Film Academy, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and the International Film Festival Rotterdam have called for the immediate release of Chinese filmmaker Deng Chuanbin (also known as Huang Huang).

Huang, an independent documentary filmmaker living in the Sichuan Province, was arrested by Chinese authorities on May 17, 2019, after he tweeted a Chinese political meme, which referenced the Tiananmen Square massacre. The tweet contained an image of a liquor bottle labelled "ba jiu," a near homophone of "89," a reference to the date of the massacre on June 4, 1989.

"We strongly condemn the arrest of fellow filmmaker Huang Huang, for allegedly tweeting a photo which the authorities found controversial," European Film Academy chairman Mike Downey said Thursday in a statement. "His detention is a flagrant betrayal of his human rights and his basic freedom of expression. This crackdown on artists like Huang is in no way acceptable and we call on the relevant authorities to release him immediately. The wide-ranging and extreme steps taken by the Chinese government to silence artistic voices attempting to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Protest and in this case, referencing a meme to a historical date, goes way beyond the limits of any respect for human rights whatsoever."

Huang, a well-known activist, often focuses on human rights abuses in China in his films. His arrest last year is only the latest intimidation from Chinese authorities. For example, in 2015, he was prevented from traveling to Geneva to attend a human rights seminar.

The European Film Academy campaigned successfully for the release of Oleg Sentsov, the Ukraine filmmaker who was arrested by Russian authorities and imprisoned in 2014 on charges of "plotting attacks against Russian targets." After an international campaign for his release, spearheaded by the EFA, Sentsov was finally released last year. Numbers, a film based on one of Senstov's plays, which Sentsov co-directed from his prison cell with Akhtem Seitablayev, is set to have its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival.