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Police in the Huantie Art District in Beijing. Photo: Canon Duan.

Beijing Arts Districts Targeted for Demolition

Hundreds of artists have been forcibly evicted from two Beijing arts districts that will be razed as part of China’s alleged crackdown on organized crime, the Art Newspaper reports. Dozens of riot officers arrived in Luoma Hu Art District, near the Beijing International Airport, on Wednesday to escort artists from their homes and studios. On Sunday, July 7, the authorities began the same process in Huantie Art District, located less than two miles from the Caochangdi gallery district, which was partially demoed last year.

Artists based in the districts were only given seven days to collect their things and move. Notices that went up on the same day the evictions began in Huantie cited mafia activity as the reason why the district was being purged. The text insinuated that the presence of artists created “security problems” in the area and warned that if the district’s occupants refuse to relocate their property could be seized.

“They are driving us all away on the excuse of cleaning up the underworld,” Canon Duan, an artist who has maintained a studio in the district for four years, told the Art Newspaper. “We’re not prepared at all. And no one has explained it to us.” Duan also said that the police are prohibiting photography as well as the ordering of take-out food while the evictions are being carried out.

Last year, the residents along a three-hundred-yard stretch of road in Caochangdi, which artist Ai Weiwei helped develop into an arts district—he designed many of the galleries and buildings in the area—were given only two weeks to vacate their homes and studios. The Beijing outpost of de Sarthe Gallery was one of the galleries that shuttered as a result.

Mass evictions are common in China; they usually occur under the auspices of the clearing of illegal construction or redevelopment projects. Among the other districts that have been targeted over the years are the Zuoyou Art District where Ai’s studio was bulldozed last year—he also lost his Shanghai studio to the government in 2011. In 2017, the buildings that housed the artists of a cooperative called Iowa were demolished, and earlier that year, artists who were part of the art colony Songzhuang faced a similar fate.