The National Gallery of Victoria accused of censoring a panel about resistance in Hong Kong

The terracotta army Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE) (detail), earthenware (terracotta), Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum, Xi’an. Courtesy National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Activist and singer Denise Ho and Chinese-Australian political cartoonist Badiucao have accused the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne of censorship after the institution declined to host an upcoming panel about art and resistance in Hong Kong, The Guardian reports. Ho and Badiucao proposed the panel to the NGV to coincide with their flagship China exhibition, featuring eight of the Qin emperor’s Terracotta Warriors on loan from Chinese institutions, to create a platform for dialogue in the context of escalating protests in Hong Kong which recently led to violent clashes in Melbourne.

Although the NGV cited a lack of time and security staff for turning down the event, Badiucao described the decision as ‘extremely unacceptable’ and ‘self-censorship’. ‘I don’t think the NGV have discussed the real meaning of the Terracotta Warriors properly,’ Badiucao said. ‘Yes they have historic value but if we look a little bit deeper, they are soldiers in an army. The soldiers belonged to the first king [emperor Qin Shi Huang] who united China thousands of years ago … it’s not just about culture. It’s also about this ideology of a united China. It’s also about authoritarianism.’

The panel, titled Be Water: Hong Kong vs China, will now take place on 4 September at the Melbourne City conference centre. Moderated by the BBC’s former Beijing correspondent Louisa Lim, it will feature Badiucao, as well as Ho, whose 2014 song Raise the Umbrella became an anthem of the Umbrella Revolution, and Australian historian Clive whose book, The Silent Invasion, traces the growing influence of China in his country.