Tom Phillips - Beijing shuts down art exhibition on violence against women

Beijing authorities have shut down an art exhibition celebrating attempts to combat violence against women, organisers said on Thursday. The exposition, timed to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, was to open at Beijing’s Jinge Art Gallery on Wednesday. But when artists arrived hours before its planned opening, they found the doors bolted shut. “The reason our exhibition was called off is pressure from higher authorities,” said Cui Guangxia, the Beijing-based artist curating the event.

Cui, who was among dozens of people arrested in mainland China last year after voicing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, said the exhibition was to have featured the work of 64 Chinese artists – 32 women and 32 men. He said he believed authorities thought the event was too large and did not like the focus on domestic violence and gender equality. Photographs taken inside the gallery show one installation featuring a bra sewed on to dozens of crumpled Chinese banknotes featuring the face of Chairman Mao. Another portrait shows a woman holding a banner protesting against the sexual abuse of children.

China’s nascent feminist movement has been on the receiving end of a Communist party crackdown. Five feminist activists were detained in March after planning to distribute pamphlets and stickers protesting against sexual harassment. Beijing-based feminists said security services had ordered them to avoid any public commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Fourth Conference on Women in September. Liberal academics, journalists, artists, activists and writers say they have faced greater scrutiny since Xi came to power in November 2012. Dozens of human rights lawyers have been detained or questioned this year.

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