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“Chinese Banksy” revealed his identity after years of secretive life. The authorities tried to figure it out through threats to the family.

In the West, he is considered one of the most famous artists critics of the Chinese regime.

Artist Badiucao Photo by Reuters

On June 4, the Chinese dissident caricaturist Badiucao revealed his appearance (he did not give his name, only showed a face) and spoke about the pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. According to him, in an attempt to calculate the cartoonist, the police threatened the man’s parents and promised to take revenge on him.

Badiucao, also known as Buddy (“buddy”), revealed his identity on the anniversary of the end of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In 1989, at this site, Chinese authorities used tanks to stifle student protests, which killed at least 200 people. When this happened, Buddy was still young, but, according to him, it was these events that led to his formation as an artist.

From Shanghai student to dissident artist

In 2007, Buddy watched a pirate film with his classmates at law school when he suddenly switched to a documentary recording. The three-hour picture was devoted to events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in April-June 1989. At first, cadres were demonstrated by groups of students protesting against government actions, and towards the end, tanks intervened. They blocked the rally road, and then shot them. The military campaign lasted from the night of 3 to 4 June and led to the death, according to various sources, from 200 to 1000 people.

For four young men a little over 20, this record was shocking. As Buddy recalls, he was never interested in politics and grew up in an ordinary working-class family of Shanghai. When the authorities dispersed the students, he was only three years old, but archival footage turned his view of the homeland upside down. He thought: “Why did I not know about what happened before? What was the name of the dead? Did it really happen? ”

The action of Buddy in Melbourne, dedicated to the decision of the Chinese government to allow President Xi Jinping to remain in power until the end of life Photos from the personal archives of the artist

In 2009, Buddy completed his studies and immigrated to Australia, not wanting to stay at home because of government policies. “We have always been told that a new era has begun, that we have forgotten about the past and we live well. But that documentary convinced me that China has not changed, and under the leadership of the Communist Party will never change, ” says Buddy to The New York Times.

In his works he prefers bright and flashy colors, combining them with defiant and vulgar images. For the first time, he gained popularity due to the anonymous publication of his work in the Chinese social network Weibo. However, the local regulator quickly restricted access to the images, and Buddy’s accounts were totally blocked 37 times. Cut off from native services, Buddy now mainly uses Twitter, which is blocked in China, to distribute work.

Often, Buddy’s actions appear in closed clothes and a mask, and his work is often ridiculed or criticized by the head of China, Xi Jinping, and his management methods. After moving to Australia, for the first few years Buddy worked as a pre-school teacher. In order to secure his relatives who remained in China, he carefully concealed his dissident activities.

works buddy on the theme of chinese repression

In 2016, the artist came to Adelaide Square in the form of the Unknown Rebel – a man who for half an hour blocked the road to a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. His name and fate are unknown. Buddy’s action was widely sold in the Western press, and since then there he has been considered one of the main critics of the Chinese government.

The organizer of student protest and human right activist Zhou Fensou who fled from china to us because of threat of arrest called the work of cartoonist very BOLD Alicia Bennett Photo
Unknown Rebel Photo Jeff weidner

No one, including friends, colleagues and parents, knew about the work of Buddy. “I worked during the day, changed diapers and sang lullabies to children. At night, I became a fighter in my small room, looking through all the news of the day to find a topic that I would like to touch on with my pen, ”the dissident said.

Threats of the Chinese police and the decision to reveal the identity

The last few years, creativity has become a full-fledged work of a man, but with publicity the risks have increased. In November 2018, Buddy was preparing for an exhibition in Hong Kong (an independent part of China, not controlled by the Communist Party), inspired by Google’s plans to create a censored version of a browser for China.

The exhibition was to be held as part of a major event on freedom of speech, where she planned to perform including the punk band Pussy Riot. At the last moment, Buddy refused – somehow, the Chinese police found out his real name and detained a family member in order to find out from him information about the artist.

Advertising poster of the failed exhibition Buddy

The relative was questioned for about three to four hours, after which they said that if Buddy did not cancel the exhibition in Hong Kong, he would have problems. That time Buddy gave way, worrying about the safety of his relatives. “I am not a brave man. I call myself the most cowardly dissident artist in the world, ”the author explained .

After that, Buddy disappeared from the network for half a year, having ceased to keep Twitter and Instagram – the leading social networks to spread their creativity. The silence broke only in May 2019, when the trailer for Buddy, a documentary about the events on Tiananmen Square in honor of the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, appeared on YouTube . In the picture, the artist revealed his identity, saying that only this will help him to return to art.

The only way to keep my safety is to reveal my identity and tell the world about what happened in Hong Kong. For many people, the cancellation of my exhibition was a big blow to human rights and freedom of speech. I want to assure people that this is not the end. I did not leave. I returned. I will be with you, and we will fight together.

Badiucao (Buddy) chinese dissident artist

According to Buddy, now Hong Kong needs help more than ever. For many years, he remained independent of censorship and repression of mainland China, but that time passes. Increasingly, rallies are being dispersed in the city, pressure is being put on the media and independent bookstores selling forbidden literature. “Now it is a different city. Hong Kong, which we knew, is no more, ”the artist believes.

Police beat protesters in Hong Kong during major rallies of 2014. Photo by Reuters

Buddy admits that he may not return to his homeland until the political situation in the country changes drastically. While the reasons for this are not visible. According to the artist, even while living in Australia, he is afraid of the surveillance and espionage of the Chinese government. Several times his computer and phone tried to remotely hack, so he constantly changes the gadgets and mobile number.

Buddy still doesn’t know how the Chinese police figured out his real name, but he says he is ready for the consequences of refusing anonymity. Perhaps now the pressure on his relatives in China will only intensify, and if this does not work, the artist’s opponents will find another way to reach him.

If the discovery of my relatives does not help, they will try to find me, even if I am in Australia (the Chinese Communist Party was accused of kidnapping dissidents abroad – note ).

I’m not naive. I expect retribution from the Chinese government. Despite this, sometimes ideas require sacrifices and people willing to stand up for them. I feel that I must do this. If I do not speak and defend my freedom of speech, I can’t be an artist.
Badiucao (Buddy)

chinese dissident artist

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