(NEW YORK) – Ahead of a planned exhibition by Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao in Warsaw, Chinese embassy officials visited the host institution to demand the cancellation of the exhibition. PEN America released a statement condemning the Chinese authorities for their blatant attempt at transnational repression through an attempt to censor criticism of the Chinese government overseas. The free speech organization called for the exhibition to be held as planned.

Badiucao has experienced censorship and harassment throughout his career and has lived in self-exile in Australia since 2009. The cartoonist released a statement today in partnership with the host institution, Ujazdowski Castle, Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw (CCA Ujazdowski Castle), calling for public support in response to efforts by the Chinese embassy in Warsaw to cancel the artist’s exhibition. The exhibition is slated to open on June 16.

“Chinese authorities have long targeted Badiucao for his political cartoons and artworks protesting the extreme human rights violations levied against its citizens and in Hong Kong,” said Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) Director Julie Trébault. “This attempt at transnational repression is blatantly illegal and wrong, and we condemn the Chinese government for trying to stop this exhibition from taking place. ARC and our partners around the world stand in solidarity with Badiucao and the CCA Ujazdowski Castle.”

Badiucao is regarded as one of China’s most prolific and well-known political cartoonists. His work has been published in The New York Times, BBC, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others.

Announced on June 6, the exhibition, titled “Tell China’s Story Well, marks the artist’s debut in Poland and will be open to the public on June 16. According to the CCA Ujazdowski Castle, the exhibition explores themes of ongoing human rights violations and censorship against the background of contemporary events and protests in Hong Kong. Badiucao’s artwork covers the 1989 Tiananmen Square revolution, the experience of Chinese citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic, the forced cultural assimilation of the Uyghurs, and the disturbing relationship between China and Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Dubbed as acts of “preventive censorship,” CCA Ujazdowski Castle called on public support in light of the actions of the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw, which included the visit of a high ranking representative as well as letters addressed to the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.According to PEN America’s recently released 2022 Freedom to Write Index —an annual count of imprisoned writers worldwide– China remains among the most inhospitable places in the world for free expression. China imprisoned nearly 90 writers, occupying the top position in PEN America’s Writers at Risk Database. PEN America has repeatedly denounced the Chinese government’s efforts to reach across its borders to threaten, harass, and suppress critics of its regime.

PEN America follows the developments in China and Hong Kong concerning freedom of expression and artistic freedom through the Freedom to Write Center and the Artists at Risk Connection, a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.