Dec 20 2017

Artist Released On Bail After Arrest For Filming Mass Evictions In Beijing

by Chloe Chu
HUA YONG reunited with his daughter. Photo from the Twitter feed of Li Hiaping.
HUA YONG reunited with his daughter. Photo from the Twitter feed of Li Hiaping.

Beijing-based artist Hua Yong was released on bail on December 18, after being detained by police on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt traffic.” Before his arrest, Hua was documenting the government’s mass eviction of thousands of migrant laborers living in “illegal structures” in Beijing’s industrial suburb of Daxing via still images and videos, which were then circulated on social media. One of Hua’s clips shows a stretch of rubble, reduced from what used to be homes, punctuated by the appearances of bulldozers and the noise of drilling.

The 40-day eviction campaign was launched by the government after a deadly fire killed 19 residents on November 18, but has since sparked widespread criticism among the city’s middle and lower classes for the inhumane treatment of the district’s inhabitants, many of whom were given just hours to gather their belongings and leave, and have not been provided with any temporary accommodation. Some evictees have staged protests by forming human blockades on the roads.

The sweeping operation is part of an initiative aimed at capping the Chinese capital’s population at 23 million by 2020. Throughout 2017, soaring land values and plans for the establishment of a green belt also led to the displacement of artist colonies. Among the first to come under fire was the studio of Shen Jingdong and Cao Zhiwen in Songzhuang, which was demolished in March after a clash between 100 police officers and just as many protestors. Then, in August, members of the Iowa Co-op in Caochangdi were forced to evacuate their homes and studios. The nearby studio of Stars Art Group member Huang Rui is also slated for demolition.

Hua has previously been detained for engaging in a piece of performance art at Tiananmen Square in 2012, and was sent to a labor camp for more than a year. The artist will have to regularly report back to police for up to 12 months while on bail, until the authorities decide whether or not to press charges.

Chloe Chu is the associate editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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