A HONG KONG exhibition featuring an artist critical of China — as well as the band Pussy Riot and former protest leader Joshua Wong — has been canceled because of “threats” by the Chinese authorities, the organizer said.
“The decision follows threats made by the Chinese authorities relating to the artist,” the organizer, Hong Kong Free Press, said in a statement on its website and Twitter account. “Whilst the organizers value freedom of expression, the safety of our partners remains a major concern.”
The cancellation represents the latest allegation of Beijing’s interference with free speech rights guaranteed to the former British colony before its return to Chinese rule in 1997. Authorities have stepped up efforts to rein in criticism of the ruling Communist Party in recent years, issuing an unprecedented ban against a pro-independence political party in September.
Hong Kong Free Press Editor-in-Chief Tom Grundy declined to identify which Chinese authorities made the threats or say what threats had been made. The exhibition was slated to open Saturday and run through a series of events known as Free Expression Week.
A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said Friday he was unaware of the issue. A spokesman for the Hong Kong government didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
The event, Gongle, was to feature the debut exhibition of the artist known as Badiucao. Badiucao’s cartoons lampoon Chinese political leaders and highlight the Communist Party’s encroachment on Hong Kong affairs.
Gongle paints a suffocating reality as Badiucao’s biting cartoons find a physical form at his debut exhibition,” a promotion describing the exhibition said. “Portraits of political leaders, exhibits of torture equipment, and iconic Hong Kong neon are blended together to reconstruct metaphors anew.”
In October, a journalist who helped organize an August speech by the founder of the banned political party at the Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong, was denied a work visa renewal by the city. The Foreign Ministry had earlier requested that the club cancel the event.
Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk rock band critical of President Vladimir Putin, and Wong, was expected to appear at another event on Tuesday, according to a post on the festival’s Facebook page. Wong, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who helped lead the 2014 Occupy Central protests, will attend a film screening on Wednesday. — Bloomberg