Organisers of an exhibition in Ukraine on Hong Kong’s ongoing protest movement have accused the Chinese embassy in Kiev of attempting to pressure them into cancelling the event.
“Free Hong Kong” is a touring exhibition containing works linked to the city’s months-long unrest, sparked last June by a now-withdrawn extradition bill with mainland China. Organisers have staged events in Germany since September, showcasing items such as crowdfunded pro-democracy ads in international newspapers and “Lennon Walls” displaying messages of support for protesters.
On January 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine received a letter from the Chinese Embassy saying that the exhibition contained misinformation and accusing organisers of “meddling with Chinese affairs,” according to a published letter.
Organisers said they then received several phone calls from the Ministry urging them to cancel the event immediately. They said they sought legal advice afterwards and were assured that they were doing nothing illegal.
“The last few days have been extremely tough for us. This was never going to be a smooth exhibition, but we weren’t expecting the news we received [last week],” organisers wrote on Facebook.
“We are not doing anything illegal, we are peaceful journalists, artists and activists bringing the story of the Hong Kong protestors to Kyiv and comparing it with the Maidan,” they said in reference to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. “The Chinese embassy says we are meddling in Chinese affairs. What we are actually doing is bringing people together to promote discussion about the parallels between the Maidan and the pro-democracy protests. We are not encouraging violence, we are not meddling, we are using art to comment on the situation.”
Maidan is the name of Kiev’s central square where a mass anti-Russian, pro-European uprising began in November 2013. Hong Kong protesters have often looked to the movement – captured in Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” – as a point of reference.
The exhibition went ahead last Saturday, with organisers thanking guests for attending “despite the ominous threats and sudden changes.”
But organisers from Hong Kong said they chose to not go to Kiev for the exhibition owing to concerns over personal safety.
“Through the exhibition, we hope to evoke reflection on the impacts of [the Hong Kong] movement, and the Chinese Communist Party, on the world, and eventually, turn more attention to the events in Hong Kong,” the
HKFP has contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ukraine for comment.