Chinese Artist Evicted Over Paintings of Abandoned, Aborted Babies

A Chinese mother looks at her newborn baby at a hospital in Shenyang city, northeast China's Liaoning province, March 20, 2014.

A prominent Beijing-based artist has been evicted from a studio in the capital by China's state security police after he made artworks of fetuses aborted and babies abandoned under the country's controversial family-planning controls.

"My works showed aspects of the family planning issue, and a lot canvases showed fetuses that had been thrown away," Wang Peng told RFA on Thursday after an altercation with the authorities, who seized some of his work before taking it away in a truck.

"They saw this as a threat to the absolute power of their dictatorial regime," he said. "The family planning regime highlights all sorts of inequalities in human rights."

Wang said his paintings were seized after he laid them out on a public square near the Songzhuang Artists' Village on the outskirts of Beijing, in protest at his eviction.

Around a dozen urban management officials, or chengguan, were dispatched to clear them away, prompting scuffles with Wang and his supporters, he said.

"I have black and blue marks all over my arms and legs," Wang said. "My ear isn't working well."

"They sent 20-30 chengguan as well as a bunch from the local police station to snatch my paintings and to threaten me, saying I couldn't lay them out there," he said.

"After that, the state security police sought me out for 'a chat' and threatened me, saying I had to leaving Songzhuang," Wang added. "I also had to stop making artwork related to the family planning policy."

Bystanders intervene

Wang Peng's friend Wang Zang said he was also at the scene.

"They seized the paintings and put them on a truck," he said. "They twisted his arm."

"A lot of bystanders—some of whom were Wang Peng's friends and others who were just passersby he didn't know—couldn't bear to watch, and were criticizing the chengguan," Wang said.

"Some even grabbed his paintings off their truck again."

Wang said he takes issue with recent reforms to the "one child policy" which will allow couples a second child.

"Why do they get to have two kids and we can't have any more [past the cut-off age]? We are all human beings," he said.

Restrictions eased

In the first significant easing of the world's most populous country's one-child policy in nearly 30 years, Beijing announced at the end of last year that couples are now permitted to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.

Previously, most parents were restricted to having one child, although the political and financial elite were able to afford the financial penalties.

Urban couples were permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings, while rural couples were allowed to have two children if their first-born was a girl. The policy has also some flexibility for ethnic minorities.

However, many couples, especially in rural areas, have faced large fines, seizure of property, and loss of jobs, as well as forced abortions and sterilizations and even violent forced evictions by local officials.

The policy was slightly relaxed after experts said it had created an aging crisis and gender imbalance across China's population.

China launched pilot drop zones for unwanted infants in 25 major cities last year in a bid to prevent unwanted babies from being left to die on the streets.

The "baby hatch" in the southern city of Guangzhou was closed, though, after being swamped by infants left by poverty-stricken parents looking to leave them anonymously in a safe place.

Some 10,000 children are abandoned in China every year, Wang Zhenyao, president of the China Welfare Research Institute at Beijing Normal University, told Reuters in an interview earlier this year.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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