Political cartoonist calls off Hong Kong show ahead of opening amid claims of threats from Chinese authorities

  • Shanghai-born Badiucao, who produces drawings critical of Chinese political figures, had planned to hold his first international solo exhibition in the city
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2018, 10:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 11:18pm

A political cartoonist whose works satirise leaders of mainland China and Hong Kong called off his first international solo exhibition in the city one day before its opening, as event organisers claimed he had received threats from Chinese authorities.

On Friday afternoon, website Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) – one of three co-organisers of the exhibition of artist Badiucao’s work – announced the cancellation, citing “safety concerns”.

“The decision follows threats made by the Chinese authorities relating to the artist,” the statement said without providing further information.

Patrick Poon Kar-wai, researcher of another organiser, Amnesty International, said: “Badiucao told the HKFP … he was under pressure, and his exhibition, as well as the opening ceremony on Saturday evening must therefore be cancelled.”

The source and nature of the threats were unclear as the organisers declined to reveal further information, citing “lack of knowledge” and the artist’s own request.

Badiucao, a Shanghai-born and Australia-based cartoonist who produced drawings critical of Chinese current affairs and political figures, was supposed to display his works highlighting “portraits of political leaders, exhibits of torture equipment and iconic Hong Kong neon blended together” for 11 days from Saturday in a co-working space in Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island.

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To kick off the exhibition, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, artist Sampson Wong and Russian band Pussy Riot were invited as guests at an opening ceremony on Saturday evening.

The exhibition was the first of a series of events jointly held by HKFP, Amnesty and the group Reporters Without Borders in November to discuss the state of free expression in Hong Kong since a large-scale civil disobedience movement in 2014.

Joshua Wong wrote in a Facebook post: “I condemn any and all efforts made by the Chinese authorities to threaten and harm freedom fighters and democracy defenders in Hong Kong.”

When asked whether the event organisers made a report to Hong Kong police, Tom Grundy of the HKFP said: “It involved the Chinese authorities and Badiucao, not Hong Kong nor us as organisers.”

The organisers also declined to comment further on whether Badiucao reported the incident to the authorities in Australia.

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Hong Kong police said only that anyone who considered their personal safety under threat or felt intimidated may report the case and seek assistance.

Badiucao had not replied to inquiries from the Post.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association issued a statement on Saturday evening expressing “extreme concern” over the cancellation.

“The association regrets the incident, has concerns about the pressure on Hong Kong’s freedoms of expression and speech, and opposes any form of threat against such freedoms by any individual, group or government,” the statement said.

On Saturday night, guests originally invited to the exhibition’s opening ceremony organised a panel discussion to express their concerns and show solidarity with the artist.

Also present were Cedric Alviani, Asia bureau head of the Reporters Without Borders, Oscar Ho Hing-kay, a cultural management professor at Chinese University, and HKFP’s Grundy.

Sampson Wong said he had been unable to get in touch with Badiucao since Friday and was worried about the artist’s safety.

Pussy Riot member Olya Kurachyova said she was not surprised about an exhibition being banned but was sorry it happened in Hong Kong.