Lee Wen Beaten During Art Basel Hong Kong

Artist attacked after speech about Chinese civil rights abuses.

Lee Wen in the hospital Photo: SCMP
Lee Wen in the hospital Photo: SCMP

The Singaporean artist Lee Wen claims that he was attacked by an unknown perpetrator while in Hong Kong for Art Basel, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The 56-year-old artist was released from the hospital on Sunday. He is best known for performances in which he paints his entire body yellow as an exaggerated representation of his Singaporean identity. The alleged attack took place on Saturday just after Lee gave a talk at Hong Kong City University and left Lee unconscious but with otherwise only minor injuries.

Lee, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was initially unsure whether he had been beaten or had simply slipped and fallen. However, friends of the artist who said that Lee had “blood all over his face and [that] he was left unconscious on the floor for half an hour,” later told the paper that Lee believed that he was beaten. The friends, artist Chan San-mu and Liu Nanxi, said that Lee had not been able to identify his attacker before being knocked unconscious.

The circumstances of the attack have left many suspicious. During his talk at the university, Lee criticized the recent arrest of Chen Guang, a former soldier who staged an artistic intervention earlier in the month to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. The event remains strictly censored in mainstream and new media on the mainland. But, when Liu and Chan suggested to Lee that it could have been an extremist lashing out, he asked them, “not to jump to any conclusions,” according to SCMP.

Article commentators were quick to express similar doubt regarding the link between Lee’s injuries and his comments during the talk. “Given that a very common symptom of Parkinson’s (and Lee Wen’s seems quite serious) is freezing and toppling forward, I think more investigation needs to be done,” wrote one commenter, Dai Muff. Another questioned, “How come more prominent personage with higher power to motivate are not attacked for their criticism of the mainland?,” going on to suggest that the news would only serve to aggravate tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China.

Lee Wen, Journey of a Yellow Man No.11: Multi-culturalism (1997) Photo: Courtesy the artist and Singapore Art Museum

Lee Wen, Journey of a Yellow Man No.11: Multi-culturalism (1997)
Photo: Courtesy the artist and Singapore Art Museum


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