An Australian gallery has removed three artworks critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after a group of Chinese students complained the pieces were racist.
The Ambush Gallery at the Australian National University (ANU) is hosting the “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” exhibition by artist Luke Cornish which features 54 commentary artworks on “injustice and protest” around the world.
Some works depicted the injustices of indigenous Australians, while others show the Black Lives Matter movement in America. However, works relating to China received what Cornish describes as a coordinated attack on social media.
Cornish apologised for the batman artwork, a satire piece on the theories of the origins of the CCP virus, saying it could be perceived as discriminatory.
However, he questioned the removal of the other two, which were illustrations depicting the genocide of the Uyghur people and the social credit system.
“The whole intention of the exhibition is to start conversations, and that’s what it’s done, but I won’t apologise for calling out genocide,” Cornish said.
The gallery apologised “for any hurt displaying the artwork caused” after it was notified of student complaints by ANU’s International Student Department (ISD).
“The artist’s objective was not to feed into destructive narratives, but to call out the racism experienced by the Chinese community and the absurdity of racist stories around the virus origin,” they said.
The ISD also noted it had asked the gallery to remove the Batman artwork due to its “detrimental nature.” However, they had not requested the removal of the other two which were taken down.
Concerns around Chinese students imposing Beijing standards of censorship on Australian education institutions have grown over recent years.
Last year, student Drew Pavlou was also suspended by the University of Queensland after he attended Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.