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Beijing Officials Demolish Studio of Activist Artist

The studio of artist Wang Peng is shown demolished by police in Pinggu, Beijing, Jan. 29, 2021. Credit: Provided by Wang Peng
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Yitong Wu, Chingman and Wang Yun | Radio Free Asia

Authorities in Beijing have demolished the studio of artist Wang Peng in a move he says is likely linked to a planned exhibit featuring the late Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus pandemic.

A demolition team arrived outside Wang’s studio in Beijing’s Pinggu district on Friday morning, escorted by police officers, disturbing the family.

“They have demolished my house during a pandemic,” he told RFA. “The district mayor said the demolition order came from higher up, from Beijing [municipal government].”

“I was about to pray … when these police officers suddenly burst in like gangsters and started shoving me around, and they stopped my wife, son, and friends from shooting video,” he said.

Wang said he thought the order was likely linked to his plans to hold an exhibit about Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who died of COVID-19 after been warned off speaking out about the extent of the initial outbreak in his city.

“The state security police said I was an ‘unstable factor,’ so they are doing various things to target me,” he said. “The background to this is Li Wenliang.”

Wang said the state security police had found out about the planned exhibit, and called to warn him not to proceed.

“They said I would be bringing China into disrepute,” Wang said. “Now they have demolished [my studio], because they said it was an illegal structure.”

“The political situation is getting to the point of madness,” he said.

The demolition came after Wang received a demolition notice on Jan. 23 from the the Xinggu sub-district of Pinggu district government.

It informed him that he would receive no compensation, and would have to have the debris left behind by the demolition gang removed at his own expense.

Repeated calls to the Xingguo subdistrict offices and the Pinggu district government rang unanswered during office hours on Friday.

Political retaliation

Beijing-based rights activist Ni Yulan, who has been hounded from several rented homes by the authorities for helping evictees lodge complaints with the government, said the demolition of Wang’s studio was a form of political retaliation for his activism.

She said Wang had already angered the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with earlier artworks hitting out at its family planning policies.

“The forced demolition was directly related to the concerns he raised about family planning,” Ni said.

“Otherwise, why didn’t they say anything when he built the place; why did they take so long to look into it?”

Wang’s recent work has included installations and a book referencing the violence employed by government family planning officials to stay within birth quotas.

He built the studio with two million yuan of his savings on land leased from the local village committee in 2008. The lease runs until 2028.

In 2014, Beijing state security police evicted Wang and his family from their home in Beijing’s Songzhuang Artists’ Village.

Li Wenliang was among a group of eight doctors who first sounded the alarm on Dec. 30 about the emergence of a mystery virus in Wuhan that seemed similar to SARS.

The authorities detained and questioned eight of the doctors on Jan. 3, including Li Wenliang, who later died of the virus, accusing them of “rumor-mongering.”

One year after Li’s death authorities in the central province of Hubei are keeping his family under tight surveillance and restrictions.

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