WASHINGTON—In some ways, art can better express a people’s pain, suffering and aspirations than history books can. At the same time China’s communist regime was showcasing its power with a massive military parade in Beijing, an art exhibit of paintings and sculptures, illustrating the blood-and- tears history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s tyranny, was on display at the Rayburn House Office Building of the U.S. Congress.
Artwork by well known artists Haiyan, Chen Weiming, Tom Block, Yan Yukun, Bob Hieronimus, and Daxiong told the story of the CCP, as well as serving as an inspiration to all of us.
“We have a show to expose the crimes of the Chinese Communist Party in the past 60 years,” said Wei Jingsheng to reporters on the morning of October 1, when they asked Wei his response to the Beijing celebration.
Wei Jingsheng, 59, is much more at home with words than with art. As one of China’s most renowned dissidents, Wei was incarcerated by the Chinese regime for nearly 18 years for advocating democracy, before he was finally released and exiled to the U.S. in 1997. His 1978 essay “The Fifth Modernization—Democracy” challenged the Communist Party’s new leadership’s stance that progress could be made without democracy.
At the news conference at the art exhibit, in the foyer of the Rayburn Building, he said through his interpreter, Ciping Huang, “I am very grateful to the artists—they use the artwork to express exactly what is on our minds.”
Organized by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation and open on October 1 and 2, this art exhibit in the nation’s capital is a way for the proponents of human rights and democracy to observe the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by condemning the crimes perpetrated by the CCP over the past 60 years. The major co-sponsors of the exhibit are the “Tear Down This Wall” Foundation, the Human Rights Painting Project of Amnesty International, and the Asia Democracy Alliance. Several other groups, including The Epoch Times, also supported the exhibit.
The concept behind the art exhibit and news conference, which were followed by a seminar the next day, was to include not only the Han Chinese ,who have suffered under 60 years of tyranny, but the minority groups who have also been victimized by the CCP since it took power by force in 1949. The Tibetans, Uyghurs, Inner Mongolians, Burmese, and Vietnamese were represented at the news conference and by the art depicted. (Dr. Quan Nguyen, representing Vietnam, was invited but was ill and could not attend.)
At the seminar, Wei spoke of the Asia Democracy Alliance and the importance of “being united together” among the various ethnic groups and nationalities in confronting their common enemy, “the evil empire of [Chinese] communism.” Wei not only referred to the Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians, but said the peoples of Burma, Vietnam and North Korea have the same common interest of realizing democracy.
The largest piece in the exhibit was a sculpture of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989 by Chen Weiming. It is 28 feet long. The description says, “…The army opened fire on the protesters and killed thousands of innocent people. Chang An Road, the widest road in the world, was covered with lifeless bodies of these youthful lives.”
Chen said the coming together of several artists to Washington, D.C. to express their ideals of freedom is “very significant.” “The Communist regime in China makes a circle for the artists. If you are ‘in’, then [your life] is okay, but if you are ‘out,’ then it is dangerous.”
Mr. Chen also made a sculpture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, depicting the scene when, as a Congress woman two years after the tragedy, she held a banner recognizing the loss of life on that day. Chen was also responsible for the bust of the Dalai Lama. Chen currently lives in Las Vegas after sculpting 18 years in New Zealand.
Tom Block, 46, painted Wei Jingsheng in an expressionist portrait that shows the strain of long years and abuse in prison. Working with Amnesty International, Block created the Human Rights Painting Project, which started in 2001. He has painted around 40 human rights defenders, and Wei was the first one he did. He has spoken about his ideas concerning using art as an activist tool at conferences and universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
Hai Yan Wang contributed several art pieces for this exhibit and they weren’t limited to just her homeland China. There are a series of murals that depict the CCP history, entitled “The Crimes of the Chinese Communist Party in the 60 years under its regime.” She signs her paintings simply, “Haiyan.”
At the age of 16, Haiyan entered the prestigious Luxun Academy of Fine Art, thereby becoming the youngest student in its history.
“I started to draw at eight years old,” said Haiyan. “I tried to create beautiful pictures and show the beautiful world, but what I found in my world, on my first school day was to learn how to write ‘Long Live Chairman Mao.’” Haiyan described her parents would be in the middle of cooking or eating when a bell would ring, and they had to run outside to do the “Loyalty Dance.”
“I look[ed] at myself and other people wearing the same color clothes—dark blue every day, the radio has the same song and same saying repeating everyday…” When she expressed her feelings of hopelessness to her mother, she was told that it was “dangerous if I paint what I see and what I feel.” But she kept the dream alive that “one day I will be able to paint things of beauty,” she said.
Her dream came true as she came to America–which in Chinese means beautiful country–in 1995, where she has received much acclaim. At this exhibit, Haiyan also displayed her paintings of Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Wei Jingsheng.
One of Haiyan’s paintings that aroused a lot of comment portrays a discussion in the late 1980s of students on changing China, led by Professor Fang Lizhi, who was an articulate advocate of democracy, influencing students that ultimately led to the Tiananmen protests. Many future leaders of the democracy movement are listening in this imaginary scene; two of them, Liu Gang and Wang Juntao, 20-plus years older now, spoke at this news conference.
Asian Democracy Leaders Condemn the 60th AnniversarySpeaking after Wei at the news conference on Oct.1, was Dr. Wang Juntao, who was introduced by the host Ciping Huang as “one of the symbols of China’s democracy movement” and a leader of the April 5th Movement.
“I come here to commemorate those victims who died under 60 years of Communist Party rule … We want to pass a message [on] the military show just 20 hours ago in Beijing, and that message is that the Communist Party obtained its power, consolidated the power, and maintained its power by violence. In our exhibition we want to show how many Chinese and other minorities died because they use the violence there to crackdown and oppress…”
Liu Gang, from the “Tear Down This Wall” Foundation, was arrested for his leadership at Tiananmen in 1989, and spent six years in prison and in a labor camp where he was beaten and shocked. At the news conference, Liu spoke a Chinese idiom that he said means it is really difficult to write down all the crimes that have been done by the communists.
Liu Gang’s thoughts were echoed by the Tibetan, Uyghur, and Mongolian representatives at the news conference and seminar. Tsering Dorjee spoke for the U.S. Tibetan Dhokham Chushi Gangdruk:
“China is grievously destroying the environment of the Roof of the World—Tibet … China has been using Tibet as a disposal plot of dumping of nuclear residues.”
At the news conference, Karma Namgyal, Secretary-General of this Tibetan organization quoted the Dalai Lama that “the Tibetan people, inside Tibet, are suffering a hell on earth.”
Amy Reger, of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, spoke on the Chinese Communist persecution of the Uyghurs in East Turkestan. Rebiya Kadeer had a schedule conflict and could not come.
Reger said that the year 2009 had been one of the most turbulent periods in the region. More than 130,000 troops have been deployed to East Turkestan to “crackdown on the Uyghur population, following an untold number of deaths and injuries that began on July 5.” She noted that the Chinese regime put the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in their October 1 parade, but that “Uyghurs are consistently denied a voice in government policies directly affecting their lives.”
One troubling development mentioned by Reger is the transfer of 240,000 young Uyghur women to China’s eastern provinces, the Chinese regime eventually plans to transfer 400,000. “The mass in-migration of Han Chinese settlers and the transfer of young Uyghur women to east China has changed the demography of East Turkestan. Today, Uyghurs are a minority in their own land.”
Xi Hai Min, from the Mongolian People’s Party, spoke of the Chinese communists destroying the Mongolian way of life. “If Inner Mongolia is truly part of China–what you own– then you should treasure it. No, that didn’t happen. [The Chinese communists] come in like bandits. They rob you of personal property, our grasslands and our natural resources. This is not the attitude of owners. You don’t treat part of China this way.”
The Falun Gong representative at the seminar, Dr. Zhang Tianliang, spoke about the termination of the right to petition higher officials, so that China’s rulers at all levels now have no fear in doing whatever they want.
“This becomes the catalyst to official corruption and persecution of innocent people, which quickly escalates the conflict between the people and the government. The relationship between the people and the government is now so tense that the communist regime has to enforce martial law for every major event, from the Olympic Games to the 60th anniversary celebration. Armed police with assault guns and armored cars are everywhere in and around Beijing.”