Beijing Police Evict Two Art Districts to Prepare for Demolition, Citing ‘Unstable Factors’ and Organized Crime

Artists were told to leave two Beijing art districts ahead of their demolition because of a "security problems."

Beijing police. Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in Beijing are evicting hundreds of artists living and working in two art districts as part of a purported crackdown on organized crime.

Police in riot gear have escorted artists out of their studios after notices were posted giving residents a seven-day window to move or else risk their property being confiscated by the government, according to a report in The Art Newspaper

Authorities began clearing the Luomahu, or Roma Lake Art District, on Wednesday, July 10. On Sunday, artists were displaced from the Huantie Art District ahead of the demolition of the neighborhood.

The sudden move is reportedly part of China’s campaign to combat mafia activity. Notices posted around the neighborhoods linked the artists to “security problems” and “unstable factors.”

“They are driving us all away on the excuse of cleaning up the underworld,” the artist Canon Duan told The Art Newspaper“We’re not prepared at all. And no one has explained it to us.” The artist has been based in Huantie for the past four years.

According to Duan, artists had invested in the neighborhood and regularly paid rent on time. No one is being offered compensation for the sudden displacement.

This is not the first time the Chinese government has cracked down on artist districts. Last year, the Beijing studio of the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was demolished without warning in the Zuoyou Art District. The Caochangdi district one and a half miles east of Huantie was demolished after authorities served a similar notice to residents. In 2017, the Heiqiao, or Black Bridge, art village was also demolished.

The reason given by authorities for these earlier clearances was urban redevelopment and the removal of “illegal constructions.” Now, the official explanation has has shifted to breaking up supposed crime rings. 

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