Artists Arrested for Supporting Hong Kong Protests

The Chinese government is cracking down on pro-democracy activists.

Wang Zang self-portrait in support of the
Wang Zang self-portrait in support of the "Umbrella Revolution," which led to him being detained by Chinese authorities Via: @wang_zang on Twitter

Chinese authorities have arrested numerous artists on the mainland who have shown support for ongoing, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

On October 11, three artists were taken away from Beijing’s Songzhuang art enclave. According to the BBC, the arrests were likely connected to the artists’ support of the Hong Kong protests. The artists are painter Zhang Haiying, poet Ouyang Xiajie, and Tibetan painter Kuang Laowu.

Two nights previous to these arrests, artists Zuiyun and Lvshang were also taken to the Songzhuang police station.

Arrests targeting Chinese artists have been increasingly frequent since poet and performance artist Wang Zang posted a deliberately provocative work on Twitter. Wang took a photo of himself holding an umbrella with his head shaved (both are symbols of the pro-democracy Hong Kong protests). He is pictured raising his middle finger to the camera. In the background hangs the national flag of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue state.

“Provoking Trouble”

Wang posted the photo on September 30 and was apprehended on October 1. The artist’s lawyer, Sui Muqing, told the Associated Press that Wang has been detained for “provoking trouble,” a charge that can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Wang was due to speak at a poetry recital scheduled to take place on October 2nd in Beijing’s Songzhuang art enclave. The event was organized in support of the Hong Kong protests. Several other artists who were on their way to attend the poetry event were also taken away by police, including Zhu Yanguang, Fei Xiaosheng, Cui Guangxia, and others. Art journalist Zhang Miao who was working for German publication Die Zeit was also arrested (see “Arts Journalist Arrested in Beijing“).

Chinese leaders are anxious that pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong will spill across the border into mainland China. As such, they have been detaining pro-democracy activists across the country. Human rights advocates say that at least 40 activists in mainland China have been taken into police custody since Hong Kong’s civil disobedience campaign began two weeks ago.

Ai Weiwei Expresses Support

Activist-artist Ai Weiwei has also expressed his support for the Hong Kong demonstrations by posting on his Twitter account: “I am a Hong Konger” on September 29, a day after the protests began. Ai was arrested in 2011 and held for 81 days. He is currently not allowed to leave the country.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, artist Kacey Wong has started a mock contest for the best logo design for the pro-democracy movement in an effort to spread awareness of the cause  (see “Artists Design Logos for Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution“).

But, for all their social impact, the Hong Kong protests haven’t managed to rattle the art market. Recent auctions of contemporary art showed that collector appetite remains ravenous and unaffected by the political turmoil. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s achieved records at their sales last week (“World Records Tumble at Hong Kong Auctions“), with China Guardian following with equally healthy results (see “Highlights of China Guardian $44 Million Fall Auctions“).


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