Art Activist Refuses Food

A Chinese performance artist expresses solidarity with an activist under house arrest.

xinba-305.jpg Artist Xin Ba presents his performance art work in Beijing, Jan. 9, 2012.

An activist in the Chinese capital entered the third day of an art installation and hunger protest on Monday, locking himself into a transparent cage in a show of support for blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been held under house arrest along with his family since September 2010.

"Is it possible to share human suffering?" wrote artist Xin Ba from inside a perspex "cage" painted with bars via a popular microblogging service.

Xin Ba, whose name is an online pseudonym, launched his "Feeling for Guangcheng" installation campaign at Beijing's controversial "798" art village on Saturday.

Perched on a small stool in the "jail cage" in sub-zero temperatures, he wrote: "Can one ignore the brutalities of totalitarianism?"

Xin Ba, who has taken water but no food during his campaign, concluded: "If you remain silent, you'll be the next 'that guy'."

He started the project after joining a rolling campaign by netizens and supporters of Chen to try to visit him at his heavily guarded home in Shandong's Yinan county, near Linyi city.

"I wasn't able to do anything when I went to Linyi before I was detained and sent away again," Xin Ba said in an interview on Monday. "This made me very depressed, so I wanted to do something to express this."

"I plan to keep this going until [Tuesday]," he said, adding that the high level of political pressure and security presence around the Chen family home made activism there difficult.

Visits barred

Unidentified security personnel hired by authorities in Chen's home village of Dongshigu have beaten, detained, and robbed activists who have tried to visit Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, and the couple's young daughter Chen Kesi in repeated attempts over the past year, netizens said.

Some groups trying to visit Chen even reported being chased by men with guns.

Last month, Hollywood actor Christian Bale was shoved and chased away by unidentified guards in the latest high-profile attempt to visit Chen. Bale, in China for the premiere of the film "The Flowers of War," got away unharmed following a car chase.

Chinese activists have made more than 100 attempts to visit Chen, who has been placed under house arrest with his family since ending four years in prison in September 2010.

Following his release, Chen and Yuan smuggled a video about their lives to the U.S.-based group ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke out. Activists say he and Yuan were severely beaten for having released the video to the public.

Chen and his family have been denied access to books, paper, or pens and electronic equipment, as well as cut off from contact with the outside world. Their young daughter, Chen Kesi, was recently allowed to attend primary school under official escort.

Aside from highlighting forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials, Chen had also spoken up against official harassment and attacks on families who exceed local birth quotas.

Xin Ba said he and a group of friends were detained for 15 days after they traveled to Linyi and put up a banner calling attention to Chen's plight.

"So I came up with a more obscure [form of protest], which doesn't involve words, or pictures, or banners," he said.

"For example, wearing dark sunglasses inside the cage."

Netizens have also launched an online campaign to post photos of themselves wearing dark glasses similar to Chen's in recent weeks, in a bid to spark public concern both within China and overseas.

"Two or three people came by yesterday and asked a lot of detailed questions," he said. "They said they were tourists, but they didn't look like tourists."

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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