Chinese Artist Arrested for Joke Images of President Xi Jinping
The Shanghai artist Dai Jianyong fell foul of Chinese authorities for depicting President Xi Jinping sporting a large mustache and scrunching up his face, the Independent reported.
Dai called the picture Chrysanthemum Face—the flower is a slang word for anus in China. The image is part of a series in which the artist takes pictures of himself and others distorting their faces.
Dai was arrested after he distributed the altered image online and charged with “creating a disturbance.” Social media has been famously used by China’s most well known artist-dissent, Ai Weiwei, for spreading his memes (see Ai Weiwei Creates New “Leg Gun” Internet Meme).
Dai faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Dai’s wife, Judy Zhu insisted “It was just a playful thing he did. I don’t think there was that much political intent behind it.”
Meanwhile Wendy Lin of the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) told the Independent that authorities are renewing their efforts to curtail civil liberties such as free speech in China. “Dai’s detention shows that humor, an expression of speech, is also under attack,” she said.
In October, Xi reinforced his firm stance on monitoring artistic expression by instructing Chinese artists to produce work promoting socialist ideals.
He said art must “embody socialist core values in a lively and vivid way, uphold Chinese spirit, and rally Chinese strength.”
In his view, “Fine art works should be like sunshine from blue sky and breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles” (see China Sets Up $70 Million National Arts Fund, But What Will It Promote?).
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