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The National Gallery of Victoria Photo: Gracchus250.
The National Gallery of Victoria Photo: Gracchus250.

National Gallery of Victoria Criticized for Refusing to Host Hong Kong Activists

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Australia has been accused of censorship for refusing to host a panel on art and resistance in Hong Kong that was organized by activist Denise Ho and Chinese Australian political cartoonist Badiucao, The Guardian reports. While the gallery was available on the requested date for the event, the museum informed Ho and Badiucao via email that it could not accommodate the panel but did not cite a reason for the rejection.

In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for the museum provided Artforum with the following statement: “The NGV supports artists’ rights to express a range of artistic and political viewpoints. The NGV was unable to accommodate the security and logistics required to book this event with short notice.”

Badiucao expressed doubts over the security concerns. “Maybe that’s why they refused the event. But I can never be sure until they give us a proper explanation, which is what we have asked for.” He also questioned whether the museum’s decision was influenced by one of its current exhibitions. For “Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality,” China loaned the museum eight of its famous terracotta soldiers that were discovered in mainland China’s Shaanxi province in 1974. Ho called the decision “unacceptable” and “self-censorship.”

Over the weekend, Hong Kong experienced some of the most violent clashes between police and pro-democracy activists since protests against Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam’s controversial extradition bill, which would have established an extradition treaty with mainland China, began in June. According to the New York Times, the authorities in Hong Kong claimed that protesters threw an estimated one hundred firebombs and hurled rocks and bricks at officers. The police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons.

On Monday, demonstrations caused massive disruptions to public transportation, leading to major traffic delays, and thousands of students were reported missing from school on the first day of the new academic year. The protests have also inspired pro-China marches in Sydney and rallies in solidarity with Hong Kong activists that have been held in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane. More than one hundred people participating in one such rally in Melbourne last month turned violent upon the arrival of Chinese nationalists.

Titled Be Water: Hong Kong vs China, the event has found a different venue. It will take place at the Melbourne City Conference Center on September 4.