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Art Studio Lock Up in Beijing Provokes Demonstration

Beijing artists protest closure of popular 789 arts district studio


Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 26, 2012 Last Updated: November 28, 2012
Related articles: China » Society
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798 Art Zone's founder Xu Yong leads artists in protest after his Beijing studio was closed. (Weibo.com)

798 Art Zone's founder Xu Yong leads artists in protest after his Beijing studio was closed. (Weibo.com)

Frustrated artists protested in Beijing’s 789 Arts District last week, angry at the lock up of artist Xu Yong’s popular 798 Space gallery, as well as arbitrary rent hikes and illegal fees, all made as part of an apparent attempt by the authorities to drive artists out of the area.

Xu and the Seven Star Property Management Company have disputed the more than doubled rental increase since last year, and the management closed down the property just before the opening banquet the 5th European Union Film Festival, reported Global Times, a regime mouthpiece.

The company opened the property temporarily for the banquet, “But they didn’t open the door Saturday until I promised to give them all the proceeds from the banquet,” Xu said to the Chinese press.

He said this would be 70,000 yuan ($11,207) paid by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China for the venue. After the banquet, his studio was locked up, and the utilities were shut off.

This week, Xu was told that he had three days to remove everything.

Xu contends that he has made an effort to negotiate an agreement with the company and has attempted to pay rent according to the prior agreement, but has met with no success.

Other artists have been forced to move to lower rent areas, and artist Hua Guang accused the property management company of raising rents irrationally. He said that rent has increased five to 10 times in the last two to three years. The lease terms also had been reduced to only one year, making it difficult for the art galleries to make long-term plans.

Huang Rui, one of the first artists to move in to the 798 Arts District, explained that his initial rent was 0.6 yuan per square meter per day and currently it is 3.5 yuan. He pointed out the negative emotional effects of the severe increases.

Still other artists point to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the instigator of the harassment.

The artists believe that they are victimized because their performances and art works cause people to reflect on issues in society that the CCP would prefer remained covered up.

Beijing-based poet Wang Zang told The Epoch Times that before the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the police were harassing workers in the Beijing 798 Arts District.

Wang said the Party does not like the various trends and movements in the arts community, including poetry and literary arts. However, the artists do not want to confine themselves to “Party Culture” themes that glorify the CCP. The Party is afraid of the works by the artists, he thinks, and they are encouraging high rents to drive the artists away from the popular tourist spot.

There is evidence for the Party’s involvement in the restraint of artists: recently dissident poet Li Bifeng was given a 12-year jail term, Tibetan filmmaker Golog Jigme Gyatso was rearrested, and a video by perennial dissident Ai Weiwei was video, per standard practice.

Read the original Chinese article.

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