NEW YORK – The arrest of Chinese filmmaker Deng Chuanbin (also known as Huang Huang) apparently for tweeting a Chinese political meme, represents the extreme steps Chinese authorities will take to silence artistic voices attempting to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Protests, PEN America said today.

Huang, an independent documentary filmmaker living in Sichuan Province, was arrested by Chinese authorities on May 17.  That morning, Huang tweeted a Chinese political meme, which referenced the Tiananmen Square protests that took place on June 4, 1989.  According to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Art Asia Pacific, authorities returned to Huang’s residence and seized several of his belongings after his arrest, including three cell phones, an iPad, laptop, camera, and several memory cards.

“Artists and documentarians are often explorers and chroniclers of a society’s cultural memories,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Huang appears to have been arrested merely for tweeting a meme that referenced a historical date. As we near the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen, we can expect the Chinese government to increase its attempts at historical erasure, including through arrests. PEN America calls for the immediate release of Huang Huang, and for the Chinese authorities to allow his and others’ voices to be heard.”  

PEN America has previously documented Chinese censorship online, and has advocated on behalf of individual Chinese writers, artists, and others—such as artist and poet Liu Xia, historian Lhamjab Borjigin, writer Yang Hengjun, photographer Lu Guang, and economist Ilham Tohti.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection, a program that assists imperiled artists and fortifies organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Michele Riggio, Director of Communications, [email protected]