Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Artist ‘detained over minced meat art’ ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

The detention of Guo Jian is the latest in a string of detentions of lawyers, artists, scholars and journalists ahead of the 25th anniversary of the military clampdown in Beijing.

BEIJING // A Chinese-Australian artist has been detained in Beijing just before the Tiananmen Square anniversary, his associates said on Monday, prompting Canberra to inform Beijing of its “strong interest” in the case.

Guo Jian, a former Tiananmen Square protester, was taken away on Sunday night from his home in Songzhuang, an art colony on the eastern fringe of Beijing, according to two of his associates.

“My friend, the painter Guo Jian, has been taken away by the police,” author Murong Xuecun wrote on Monday in a posting on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Beijing-based curator and art critic Yang Wei, wrote in a Weibo message that Mr Guo’s detention was triggered by his recent work on a Tiananmen-themed art installation.

The 52-year-old Chinese-born Australian “was taken away by police from his Songzhuang studio today because he made a ‘Meat Square’ installation”, Mr Yang wrote in a message on Sunday night, adding that the exhibition has not yet opened to the public.

Mr Guo managed to send two short text messages to friends to say he had been taken by police, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

It cited a friend, artist Melanie Wang, as saying she was able to reach him on the phone briefly. He told her police said he would be released in 15 days.

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said, “The Australian embassy in Beijing has contacted Chinese authorities to seek further information on the reported detention of Mr Guo Jian and to underline our strong interest in the matter.”

“The Australian government stands ready to extend all possible consular assistance to Mr Guo,” he said.

Mr Guo’s detention came days before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, during which hundreds of people were killed. Some estimates say the number was more than 1,000.

China censors any mention of the crackdown and has ramped up already strict controls ahead of the anniversary.

Police have detained some 20 prominent liberal academics, lawyers and activists in recent weeks, according to the US-based group Human Rights in China.

Among them are Pu Zhiqiang, one of China’s most celebrated human rights lawyers, and Gao Yu, a veteran reporter previously jailed for her writing on the Tiananmen protests.

Friends of Mr Guo believe he was taken in by authorities because of a recent interview with the Financial Times, the Herald reported.

During the interview, he revealed he had created an artwork to privately commemorate the anniversary, covering a large diorama of Tiananmen Square with 160 kilograms of minced meat.

Mr Guo reportedly emigrated to Australia in 1992 and returned to China in 2005.

* Associated France-Presse