Dissenting cartoonist optimistic about Italian show China tried to cancel – Radio Free Asia
Chinese dissident cartoonist Badiucao, whose work highlights rights violations and abuses of power under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime and often satirizes CCP leader Xi Jinping, says he remains optimistic about at an upcoming exhibition in Italy after the Chinese Embassy tried to have it canceled.
Badiucao spoke to RFA shortly after the Chinese Embassy in Italy requested the cancellation of its exhibition at the Museo di Santa Giulia in Brescia, which is scheduled to open on November 13.
Brescia mayor Emilio del Bono said he had received a letter from the cultural office of the Chinese embassy describing the cartoonist’s work as “full of anti-Chinese lies” and warning that diplomatic relations would be “in danger” whether they were allowed to continue. .
“The Chinese government thinks it can put pressure on me, the municipal government where the exhibition is held and the venue,” Badiucao told RFA.
“They sent a threatening letter to the mayor of Brescia, the Museo di Santa Giulia and other Italian officials in charge of diplomatic and cultural exchanges, and the content of the letter was quite rude and blunt,” he said. he declares.
“The Chinese called on the local government and the museum to cancel my exhibition and called me a liar who endangers China’s national interests,” Badiucao said.
“He also mentioned a number of planned cultural exchange projects between China and Italy, which basically means that if they go ahead with the exhibition, they might cancel future events as well,” did he declare.
But Badiucao said he was optimistic about the next show.
“I think it’s pretty cool, because the Chinese government gave me free publicity,” he said.
“It used to be just a nationwide exhibition in Italy, but now everyone in Europe and the rest of the world has heard about it as well.”
“Once again, Beijing shot itself in the foot,” he said.
Badiucao’s work recently gained international attention after he painted custom shoes for Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter, who spoke out against violations of rights by China, especially Uyghurs and Tibetans, and criticized them. Nike sponsors for not having resisted Beijing.
“One of the strongest images of the third pair of shoes is Winnie the Pooh,” Badiucao said in a recent interview with RFA’s Mandarin service.
“We know that Winnie the Pooh represents Chinese leader Xi Jinping, so I used the image of Tank Man, but with the heads of Winnie the Pooh on top of the tanks, symbolizing the totalitarian and repressive regime of the China, ”he said.
“I turned the Tank Man basketball player figure into a sort of homage to Kanter, because he acts like a contemporary Tank Man,” he said, referring to the 1989 news photo of a lonely man in shirt sleeves with shopping bags. which briefly blocked an entire column of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tanks during the June 4, 1989 crackdown after weeks of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.
He said the shoes also bore images of red bricks, in reference to the government’s great censorship firewall that limits what more than 900 million Chinese internet users can do or see online.
“I used the image of a red brick wall because China’s censorship mechanisms are very strict,” Badiucao said.
The cartoonist’s work has already been targeted by China.
In 2018, Hong Kong officials canceled an event that allegedly included Badiucao’s designs a day before it opened.
The exhibition, titled “Gongle”, was scheduled for November 3 and was canceled after “threats by Chinese authorities against the artist,” Hong Kong Free Press organizers told Amnesty International at the time. and Reporters Without Borders.
Badiucao was scheduled to appear on a panel alongside Russian anti-Kremlin punk group Pussy Riot, as well as now jailed student protest leader Joshua Wong.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.