Liu Xiaobo artwork hits world streets in latest form of protest
Anonymous mainland artist living in Australia produces street art to mourn dissident and call for widow to be freed; it may be displayed in Hong Kong
The Australia-based Chinese artist behind a widely circulated illustration of dissident Liu Xiaobo and his widow, Liu Xia, is launching a global art campaign to mourn the death of the jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and call on Beijing to free his ailing widow.
A series of illustrations by Badiucao, who refuses to disclose his real name for security reasons, has already been put up as a form of street art at sites in Australia and Canada. They will soon hit Germany, New Zealand and the United States with the help of internet users.
There are also plans to display the work in Hong Kong. The artist said a friend in the city was looking for appropriate sites.
Badiucao never expected his work would become a new form of social movement when he first put up his illustration, The Patient of China, on Hosier Lane in Melbourne on the eve of Liu’s death. But he was surprised to see a flower bouquet at the site a day later.
“There were more and more bouquets in the following days with many people leaving messages for Xiaobo. Soon there were pictures of Xiaobo, candles ... and even an introduction on him in Chinese and English,”Badiucao told the Post in an interview.
“I was moved and realised these illustrations and the way they were displayed could in fact be a brilliant way to commemorate Liu Xiaobo and support Liu Xia in different places around the world.”
The artist hoped the global drive would help the international community – especially overseas Chinese – understand the country’s reality.
Liu died in custody on July 13 in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province, where he had been treated for weeks for terminal liver cancer. He was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for writing the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08.
Human rights advocates have called on Beijing to free Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 and has yet to return to her home in Beijing.
Badiucao’s The Patient of China – which was used by many Facebook users as their profile icon following the dissident’s death – was based on a photo of Liu embracing his wife in the hospital. They were looking into each other’s eyes.
The artist said he had simplified the couple’s facial features, focusing on Liu’s striped uniform and his wife’s orange clothing.
“I believe everybody can still recognise the couple with these tiny hints no matter how hard the Communist Party regime tries to erase their traces,” Badiucao said.
The simplicity and abstract nature of his works also allowed them to bypass Beijing’s internet firewall, he added.
Badiucao, who started drawing political cartoons in 2011, has also followed events in Hong Kong and came up with a series of illustrations featuring the umbrella movement and Beijing’s recent interpretation of the Basic Law on oath-taking by lawmakers.
“I still see hope in Hong Kong as I can see the younger generation continues to rebel against [Beijing’s] oppression and control,” he said.
Badiucao, who moved from mainland China to Australia a decade ago, also hopes to take off his mask – which he wears at public events and exhibitions – to reveal his real identity when China becomes an open and democratic society.