An Italian city is going ahead with plans to host an art exhibition by a Chinese dissident despite a request from China’s embassy to cancel it, the mayor said in comments published Friday.

The exhibition by Badiucao, a cartoonist also known as “The Chinese Banksy”, is expected to denounce Chinese political repression and censorship of information on the Covid pandemic.

A poster on Badiubao’s upcoming exhibition in Italy. Photo: Badiucao, via Twitter.

The show, called “China is (not) near,” is due to run from November 13 to February 13 in the northern Italian city of Brescia, about 100 kilometres east of Milan.

Brescia Mayor Emilio Del Bono told Il Foglio newspaper on Friday that his office would not comply with a request from the Chinese embassy in Italy to scrap it.

He said the friendship between the Italian and Chinese people “is not in question”, but “I think it is important to show that you can stay friends while criticising some things.”

The deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, earlier tweeted that “For us art and freedom of expression are an essential combination.”

Her message accompanied pictures of newspaper reports about the alleged censorship request from the cultural affairs office of the Chinese embassy in Rome.

Local paper Giornale di Brescia has quoted a letter from the cultural office to the council, in which it complained that Badiucao’s works “are full of anti-Chinese lies”.

It alleged that they “distort facts, spread false information,” mislead the Italian public and “jeopardise friendly relations between China and Italy.”

The cultural office closed the letter expressing “strong dissatisfaction” with the exhibition and asking the council “to act quickly to cancel the above mentioned activities”.

Badiucao. Photo: China’s Artful Dissident.

The press office of the Chinese embassy in Rome did not respond to phone calls from AFP seeking a comment.

Badiucao, who lives in Australia, calls himself on social media a “Chinese-Aussie Artist hunted by CCP [Chinese Communist Party]”.

He says the one in Brescia will be his first international solo exhibition.

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