HONG KONG (Reuters) - One of China’s most prominent political cartoonists who has hidden his identity for years to avoid reprisals from the state revealed his face publicly on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of Beijing’s June 4 crackdown on Tiananmen protests.
Chinese troops brutally crushed the student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square, first opening fire on the night of June 3, 1989, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, witnesses and rights groups say.
Chinese Communist Party rulers have since sought to white-wash the violence, never offering an admission of guilt or wrongdoing or releasing a death toll.
Badiucao, a 33-year-old China-born cartoonist and artist who has drawn comparisons to graffiti artist Banksy, said he could no longer remain in the shadows despite threats from China’s security apparatus prompted by biting satires that poke fun at Beijing’s leaders and their perceived abuse of power.
In a documentary on his life called “China’s Artful Dissident” and shown on ABC television on Tuesday, he shows his face and for the first time details how he was forced to scrap an exhibition in Hong Kong last year given threats against loved ones.
“I’m facing this major choice: to be silent forever, or to fight back, to confront, face to face, this situation,” the bespectacled cartoonist told Reuters by phone from Melbourne where he lives, still without revealing his name.
“By stepping out on the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre I don’t think there’s any better time for me to do that.”
Badiucao posts most of his cartoons online and uses social media extensively. When required to appear in public in the past, he sometimes wore a balaclava.
Despite his precautions, he said Chinese authorities somehow discovered his identity last year, possibly through digital surveillance while he was planning the Hong Kong show, which would have been his first international exhibition.
His works include neon sculptures of deceased Chinese dissident and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo and a cartoon of Chinese President Xi Jinping
holding a rifle next to a dead Winnie the Pooh.
Chinese internet users have in the past likened Pooh’s portly appearance to Xi. A small number of people have even used Pooh as a symbol of resistance.