After a group of pro-Beijing politicians and newspapers accused Hong Kong’s soon-to-open M+ museum of violating China’s national security law, the institution said that its presentations will comply with the measure. According to a report by the South China Morning Post, Henry Tang Ying-yen, chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong, said that the arts district “will definitely uphold the law, comply with the Basic Law, local laws, and the national security law.”
The South China Morning Post also reports that M+ will not show Ai Weiwei’s artwork Study of Perspective: Tiananmen (1997), when it opens to the public later this year. Ai’s photograph the artist raising his middle finger before Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the site of a 1989 massacre in which troops fired at students protesting governmental corruption. A complaint filed to the police by pro-Beijing figures last week centered on the institution’s press preview, which included works by Ai.
Sources familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post that they were not aware of the inclusion of any works by Ai in the inaugural exhibition before the complaint was issued, though the newspaper reports that “it remains unclear whether any other exhibition details have been changed because of the protests.”
China’s national security law was instituted in Hong Kong last year amid democracy protests. It takes broad aim at “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces,” and has raised questions about censorship in Hong Kong’s cultural sector. While Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, has said that Hong Kong “respects the freedom of cultural and artistic expression,” she has also signaled that “authorities would strictly and seriously handle an incident if any cultural project contravened the law, including the national security legislation,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Previously, Suhanya Raffel, M+’s director, said that the museum would not shy away from exhibiting works with a political underpinning such as Ai’s. These comments prompted Lam to tell Hong Kong’s Legislative Council that the displays put on by the museum may cross a “red line.”
The opening of the Herzog & de Meuron–designed M+ Museum, which has postponed several times, has been highly anticipated. In recent months, the institution, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design in Hong Kong and throughout Asia, has received significant donations of works from local collectors Hallam Chow and William and Lavina Lim.