A gallery on the Australian National University campus has removed artworks mocking Chinese communist leaders after students at the university complained.
It's led to allegations that the gallery has bowed to pressure from supporters of the regime in Beijing.
The removed works were part of an exhibition billed as a commentary on "the rise of authoritarianism". They were taken down following complaints from Chinese students about satirical depictions of Chairman Mao Zedong and of the current president of the communist regime, Xi Jinping.
The works by Canberra-born artist Luke Cornish (also known as ELK) were part of the Don't Shoot the Messenger show at the aMBUSH Gallery (as it spells its name).
One of the removed works showed a Chinese bank note altered to depict Winnie the Pooh strangling Tigger.
Before the removal of the work, the artist had said that it was a comment on China's treatment of Uighur Muslims. Human rights groups have accused the Beijing regime of holding more than a million Uighurs in "re-education" camps.
The exhibition was billed as a commentary on "the rise of authoritarianism" but some Chinese students complained the works were racist.
The gallery said: "We removed an artwork series from the exhibition last week after some feedback, the decision was based around unintended hurt caused to the Chinese community who felt the work was feeding into negative racial narratives."
Apart from addressing Chinese government repression, the artist had included art depicting an upside-down figure of Christ on a cross. There are works inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
But it was the artist's Chinese images which drew the fire of Chinese students at the university and beyond.
While some complaints were that the images were racist, others alleged that there was a coordinated campaign by supporters of the Beijing regime to get critical work, particularly of the leaders Mao and XI, banned.
"The Australian National University has bowed to a co-ordinated pressure campaign by Chinese students to take down artwork criticizing the Uyghur Genocide," one Tweet said.
But the ANU denied it had censored the works. It said it was committed to free speech. It didn't run the gallery. "Neither the artwork nor the exhibition were commissioned by ANU," a spokesman said.
"ANU is aware artwork has been taken down at Ambush Gallery, which was an independent decision of the gallery."
The artist Luke Cornish told the ABC: "I was just getting smashed on Instagram and social media, I think the gallery were getting smashed too," he said. "It was such a bullying mentality, so the gallery made the call to take the artworks down."
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