A pro-Beijing newspaper has attacked an art exhibition about the coronavirus pandemic, and the student union of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), accusing them both of promoting “black violence.”

Wen Wei Po slammed the PolyU student union on Tuesday for promoting the World Press Photo Exhibition in an article titled “PolyU SU spreading independence, street booths promoting violent photo exhibition.”

World Press Photo
World Press Photo Exhibition in Hong Kong. Photo: World Press Photo Exhibition Hong Kong, via Facebook.

The newspaper accused External Secretary of the PolyU student union Alice Wong, who is also a member of student activist group Student Politicism, of using the exhibition to “make a name” for the SU, promoting “black violence” and “embellishing” the Poly U siege. The colour black is associated with black-clad pro-democracy demonstrators.

In November 2019, fierce clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police broke out around PolyU, with police surrounding trapped demonstrators for days.

The World Press Photo Exhibition was initially scheduled to be held at the Baptist University last month, but was cancelled by the university citing “campus safety and security” concerns three days before it was expected to launch on March 1.

The exhibition included photos from Hong Kong’s protests in 2019, and is currently open to the public after securing a private venue. An earlier exhibition planned in Macau was also cancelled in October last year.

Art exhibition ‘infurating’

In two other articles, Wen Wei Po also criticised an art exhibition in Tai Kwun for showcasing content that “smeared the police and beautified rioters,” and reported lawmakers saying that the government should review the exhibition.

Eunice Yung
Eunice Yung.

The newspaper slammed a Tai Kwun exhibition titled the Unsung for showing images that contained “suspected promotional materials from the black violence incident,” and books about the 2016 Mongkok unrest and the umbrella movement in 2014.

According to Tai Kwun’s website, the Unsung featured artwork from 14 locally based artists who conducted research and interviews with people “who have been highly affected by the pandemic and yet have nevertheless persevered,” including medical workers, flight attendants, and social workers.

Wen Wei Po also quoted pro-establishment legislators Eunice Yung, Holden Chow, and Kwok Wai-keung slamming the organiser. Yung told the pro-Beijing newspaper that “these actions of ‘fake art’ are very undesirable.”

Tai Kwun
Tai Kwun. Photo: Wikicommons.

“These sort of exhibits that incite violence are not art, and this is not the original intention of art – some individuals with ulterior motives attempted to use the name of art to achieve their own political goal of smearing the police,” Yung told Wen Wei Po on Monday.

The criticism came after the M+ Museum was accused of breaking the national security law over content in a media preview. The preview included artworks by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, such as his series “Study of Perspectives.”

Yung said that Ai’s works “are spreading hatred against the country.” The series included Ai giving the middle finger to landmarks around the world, including at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Last month, political artist Kacey Wong told HKFP that any government crackdown on art would “suffocate” the sector. “The purge seems to have finally arrived in the artistic and cultural sector,” he said, adding that a crackdown may “stifle the development of Hong Kong’s art culture.”

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.