Controversial political artist’s Hong Kong exhibit canceled over ‘safety concerns’

An image of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam used in promotional material for a now-canceled exhibit by Chinese political artist Badiucao.

Threats by authorities directed toward Chinese artist Badiucao — whose politically subversive paintings routinely target Chinese President Xi Jinping — have led to the cancellation of his first solo international exhibition tomorrow night in Hong Kong, organizers announced this afternoon.

The art exhibition Gongle, due to run through Nov. 13, was part of Free Expression Week — organized by Amnesty International, local news outlet the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The event was intended to look at freedom of expression in the wake of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

But according to an editorial published by the HKFP, the event has now been canceled due to “threats made by the Chinese authorities relating to the artist.”

“Whilst the organisers value freedom of expression, the safety of our partners remains a major concern,” the statement reads. “We regret having to make this decision, and hope there will be a chance for public to see Badiucao’s work in future.”

While it was unclear precisely what paintings were to be shown, the initial announcement of the event highlighted Badiucao satirical works portraying Xi staring at the mounted head of Winnie the Pooh, Xi (and US President Donald Trump) being smacked in the face by North Korean leader Kim Jong, and a painting that casts Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong in a heroic light.

Tomorrow’s now-canceled exhibition was also meant to feature a Q&A session with Wong, political artist Sampson Wong, and members of the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

HKFP’s editor-in-chief Tom Grundy tweeted that Pussy Riot’s appearance will be rescheduled, while Wong will still appear at a Q&A session on Wednesday for the documentary The Last Exit to Kai Tak. He was able to offer no further comment on the situation when contacted by Coconuts Hong Kong.

To mark the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Badiucao invited people around to pose as “tank man,” the nickname for an unidentified man who stood in front of a line of tanks and soon became one of the most iconic images from the tragedy that saw the Chinese government send in the military to disperse pro-democracy protesters, most of whom were students.

Badiucao’s Gongle was to have featured portraits of political leaders, and exhibits of torture equipment blended with neon.

Today’s announcement of its cancellation comes less than a month after it was revealed that Hong Kong had declined to renew the visa of Financial Times Asia editor Victor Mallet. It is widely believed that decision was directly tied to Mallet’s hosting of a Foreign Correspondent’s Club talk with Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) leader Andy Chan, whose party was subsequently banned for its pro-independence stance.

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

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