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Published: Friday, 6/6/2014

China: Detained Australian artist had visa problem


BEIJING — The Chinese government said today that an Australian artist detained in Beijing ahead of the politically sensitive 25th anniversary of the deadly military crackdown on protests around Tiananmen Square had fraudulently obtained a visa.

Chinese-born Australian citizen Guo Jian, a former protester in China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement, was detained by Beijing authorities on Sunday shortly after a profile of him appeared in the Financial Times newspaper with him detailing his participation in the movement. Chinese authorities permit no public discussion of the crackdown.

Guo also may have angered authorities by creating a morbid diorama of Tiananmen Square in a Beijing studio as part of his commemoration of the event.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s explanation today for his detention cited only visa fraud, and said he was being dealt with according to the law.

Australia’s government said earlier today it had been told Guo would be detained for 15 days and then deported. Australian consular officials were seeking an explanation for the detention and had been allowed to visit him, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Today, police brought the artist to his studio in Beijing to pack and remove things he wanted to take with him back to Australia. Guo was wearing what appeared to be the uniform of a police detention center, a blue and yellow shirt over blue trousers, and was accompanied by five officers who drove two cars.

While they were there, police informed Guo’s girlfriend and friends who were at the studio that Guo was going to be sent back to Australia. After about 15 minutes, they left carrying several bags.

In Guo’s studio was his diorama of Tiananmen Square that had been destroyed by police a few hours after he was taken away on Sunday. Guo had slathered the diorama with minced pork to create an installation piece he told the FT was his way of privately marking the anniversary.

Guo’s detention was part of a string of prosecutions against artists, lawyers, scholars and journalists ahead of the Tiananmen anniversary amid intense government efforts to deter coverage by international media of its remembrance.

After a stint as a soldier, Guo was studying art in Beijing when he was swept into the 1989 student protests and witnessed the military crackdown that began on the night of June 3, 1989.

Discussions of the protest and its military suppression are taboo in China, and authorities tighten security ahead of the anniversary each year. But this year’s suppression was harsher than in previous years, as police rounded up activists who had received only warnings in the past.

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