Tonight’s screening of CHINA’S ARTFUL DISSIDENT on Australian television included the exiled cartoonist, street artist and installationist Badiucao’s first media appearance without a disguise.
Last we week we wrote about Badiucao’s inability to exhibit his work internationally and the subsequent challenges faced while attempting to make a film in several different countries, once again playing cat and mouse with the Chinese authorities.
“Badiucao”, the persona, has been maintained during the ten years the artist has been resident in Australia. However it became clear that despite the enormous care taken by Badiucao, his colleagues and creative partners around the world his security was compromised sometime in 2018. Thereafter he had to prioritise the safety of himself and his family, cancelling his major exhibition of work in Hong Kong and taking an extended break from social media.
However he was not content to grant the authoritarians in his home nation unlimited leverage. Knowing that they have his identity and that it remains a tool with which to exert control only as long as the information is hidden from the wider world, Badiucao has taken the bold and courageous step to unmask, the first stage of discarding his anonymity. That he should do so on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre makes the act all the more poignant and resonant.
“If I give up my family, do I still have a heart? If I give up my self, do I still have a heart?”Badiucao, speaking from exile in Australia
CRNI does not doubt that there will be reprisals from China. It’s all but guaranteed that the broadcaster ABC, those who made this film and anyone associated with Badiucao in Australia can expect cyberattacks in the coming hours and days. Those who knew him in China before his exile may also be harassed by agents of the state. We will bring attention to any such action taken and encourage all human rights organisations to do the same.
“Badiucao has displayed exemplary courage in the face of palpable threats from the Chinese state. Over the past decade his artwork has served to remind the wider world and in particular the Chinese diaspora as well as the increasing numbers of international students and tourists from the county of unpalatable truths the CCP seeks to suppress. Like so many dissidents Badiucao is forced into exile, its own form of violence against a person. On the 30th anniversary of the horror at Tiananmen Square it is incumbent on each of us to reflect upon what has changed since and more importantly what has not. Badiucao, the other free-speech advocates featured in Danny Ben-Moshe’s truly remarkable film and all those seeking reform in China deserve our support.”Terry Anderson, Deputy Executive Director, CRNI