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Chinese cartoonist Badiucao is set to appear in a documentary about his art in the context of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. The hour-long film, set to be broadcast on ABC Australia on June 4, comes six months after the artist was forced to cancel his debut Hong Kong art exhibition amid threats from the Chinese authorities.

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HKFP – which was meant host Badiucao’s show during its Free Expression Week – is arranging a Hong Kong premiere of the movie on June 10.

China's Artful Dissident badiucao
Badiucao. Photo: China’s Artful Dissident.

The film follows the exiled artist in the lead-up to the ill-fated art show, as he uses his satirical cartoons and performance art around the world to challenge Beijing’s censorship and one-party rule.

China's Artful Dissident badiucao
Badiucao. Photo: China’s Artful Dissident.

“He believes history is constantly being rewritten and tampered with, and even forgotten, when free speech and democracy are absent,” a statement from the filmmakers said. “His art is a record of his personal perspective on social issues which aims to confront the official record. He believes art and the internet has the power to deconstruct and challenge the arrogance and authority of dictatorships, building towards individual awakening and true independence.”

China's Artful Dissident badiucao
Badiucao’s art work. Photo: China’s Artful Dissident.

The movie reveals how Badiucao was inspired by Tank Man – the lone protester who stood in front of a line of tanks after the bloody 1989 military crackdown. The massacre left hundreds – perhaps thousands – dead following weeks of pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square.

Interview: Badiucao: ‘I think we are witnessing the dying of Hong Kong’

China's Artful Dissident badiucao
Badiucao as Tank Man. Photo: China’s Artful Dissident.

Badiucao has not been heard from since he received threats over last year’s exhibition. His Twitter account was last active on the eve of the show, last November 2.

badiucao chair

The filmmakers said he went to great lengths to protect his real identity: “Like Banksy, the artist remains incognito, but unlike Banksy, his life – and that of his family – are at stake, as the Chinese authorities – desperate to prevent his political art breaching their Great Firewall – close in on his identity.”

Danny Ben-Mosche.
Danny Ben-Moshe.

Award-winning Australian director Danny Ben-Moshe – who appears in the film – said that he reached out to Badiucao having seen his street art in a national newspaper.

“The level of fear about Chinese surveillance escalated as the film progressed,” he said. “It made me realise that China’s nefarious activities overseas are like a form of terrorism, where the fear of the threat can be greater than the threat itself.”

The movie will debut on ABC Australia at 9:30pm on June 4.

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.