Two graffiti artists went on trial in southern China last week charged with “provoking trouble” after an evening of spray painting walls failed to impress the local police. The male defendants, neither of whom was named, appeared in court in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province on Friday in the first trial of its kind, Beijing Youth News reported on Thursday. One was identified as a 20-year-old university student who was quoted as saying he had a passion for graffiti and wanted his work to be seen by more people. “I just want to be a street artist like [English graffiti artist] Banksy. I didn’t expect it to be a serious crime,” he said. The report did not provide details of what the two men painted but said their work was found on more than 10 walls along a single street in Zhaoqing. The incident happened in September and the pair were identified just hours after completing their work, it said, adding that all of the graffiti was promptly removed by sanitation workers. The student said that as well as the public work he and his friends painted in the dark of night, he had been commissioned to produce artwork for several bars in the city. Beijing street artists taking graffiti in China to the next level, transforming the city – and even getting paid for it The man’s father was quoted as saying that he had visited all of the owners of the buildings his son had decorated to apologise. He said he hoped they would be forgiving and help him in his plea to the court to hand down a lenient sentence. The court had yet to reach a verdict, the report said. According to Song Fuxin, the lawyer representing the student, prosecutors initially charged the two men with vandalism, but this was reduced to “provoking trouble”, as the former applied only to crimes in which the cost of the damage exceeded 5,000 yuan (US$725), which was not the case in this instance. Tributes paid to three London graffiti artists killed by a train Despite the lesser charge, Song accused the authorities of overreacting, saying that under urban administration rules, people charged with such offences were usually given an administration punishment, such as a warning or a fine, and did not face criminal prosecution. However, a local store owner was quoted as saying that the more serious charges might have been because authorities in Zhaoqing had recently launched an urban clean-up campaign in the hope of winning a nationwide competition.