An art show in Hong Kong featuring the work of a Chinese dissident artist has been canceled due to "safety concerns," the organizer said Friday.
"We are sorry to announce that the exhibition 'Gongle,' by Chinese artist Badiucao, has been canceled," the Hong Kong Free Press, a local publication which was co-sponsoring the event, said in a statement.
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"The decision follows threats made by the Chinese authorities relating to the artist. Whilst the organizers value freedom of expression, the safety of our partners remains a major concern."
Badiucao is the pseudonym of a Chinese-Australian artist based in Europe. He has previously been profiled by CNN, and drew widespread attention for a campaign last year on the death of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and a piece last month at Google's headquarters over the search giant's decision to reenter China.
The artist had been planning to travel to Hong Kong for the show, but pulled out earlier this week over concerns for his own safety and anonymity were he to be arrested.
Hong Kong police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives of the Chinese government in Hong Kong also did not immediately respond.
'Needed more than ever'
Patrick Poon, a researcher for Amnesty International, which was co-hosting the Hong Kong event, said he was "shocked" by the news.
"From Badiucao's experience, we can see how much pressure a dissident faces even when he's doing his work outside China."
The show's cancellation comes weeks after the Hong Kong government refused to renew the working visa of Financial Times editor Victor Mallet in the wake of him hosting a talk by pro-independence activist Andy Chan at the city's Foreign Correspondent's Club.
Chan's Hong Kong National Party was subsequently banned, in an unprecedented move widely denounced by pro-democracy figures.
"Gongle" was billed as "the first international solo exhibition of China-born political cartoonist and artist Badiucao," and was due to be kicked off by an event featuring two members of the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot, Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, and local artist Sampson Wong.
Joshua Wong said he understood the decision by organizers, and respected their prompt response to safety concerns.
"The fact that an artist is threatened due to a simple art exhibition which celebrates freedom of expression is an outrage, and I condemn any and all efforts made by the Chinese authorities to threaten and harm freedom fighters and democracy defenders in Hong Kong," he added.
Poon said that "from this incident, we see that an event like this one on highlighting freedom of expression is so important and so much needed more than ever."
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