Chinese political slogans emerge on the walls of London’s street art scene.
London’s renowned Brick Lane celebrated for its street art scene, has ignited discussions following the appearance of Chinese Communist Party ideology slogans on one of its walls. Videos circulating online captured a group spray-painting bold red Chinese characters onto a white backdrop overnight during the weekend.
The “core socialist values,” comprised of twelve two-character words, stand as prominent political phrases during President Xi Jinping’s reign. Such red-block character political propaganda, reminiscent of practices in China, has been etched onto a white wall.
These slogans on Brick Lane have incited online deliberations regarding their classification as street art and the intricate dynamics between freedom of expression and political propaganda. The wall has evolved into a battleground for contrasting narratives, with individuals promptly adding fresh graffiti to criticize the Chinese government.
Some contributors inserted “no” before the slogans, while others posted alternative messages or visuals to contest the spray-painted text. A snapshot captures an £800 fine issued on Saturday, citing “graffiti & flyposting” as offenses.
Others were upset that the slogans covered up older works, including a tribute to a well-known street artist who died.
The socialist slogans, first revealed by President Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao in 2012, include prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendship.
Although the slogans have attracted negative comments, it’s not clear if the people who painted them were being serious or ironic.
Wang Hanzheng, one of the creators who also goes by the name Yi Que for his artworks, claimed the piece “didn’t have much political meaning”.
In an Instagram photo post, Mr. Wang wrote in Chinese saying the group used the political elements as a coat “to discuss different environments”.
“In the name of freedom and democracy, it illustrates the cultural center of the West, this is London’s freedom… Decolonize the false freedom of the West with the construction of socialism, let’s see what happens,” the post reads.
“Needless to say what’s the situation on the other side,” he added.
Mr. Wang told the BBC “there is no question” that the 24 characters are “not only goals of China, but common goals for the world”.
Pictures of the wall immediately sparked strong reactions among Chinese speakers on social media.
Many inside China, mostly those who also defend the government, argued that what had been done in Brick Lane was freedom of expression and should be protected. Some said they were proud of this kind of “cultural export”.
But some nationalists also questioned whether it was a form of “high-level black”, a term often used by state media and social media users to describe people who use veiled language to criticize and satirize the Communist Party regime.
Outside China, the work has seen a flood of criticism.
“Obstructing freedom of speech is not a part of freedom of speech. The jargon you used cannot justify your brutal destruction of other people’s art,” a top-liked comment under Mr Wang’s Instagram post reads.
“Do you dare to go to Beijing and write democracy and freedom? If you dare, the home country you love will dare to arrest you,” another top comment wrote.
Mr. Wang admitted the reaction had been more intense than he expected. He told the BBC he had been doxed and his parents harassed. “More and more people are using this subject for their own purposes and displaying maliciousness, this is not my intention,” he added.
Comments under his Instagram post of the work were no longer visible on Monday morning.
“This piece is not finished yet,” wrote another creator Gino Huang on Instagram.
“Like any other graffiti, being covered and discussed will be this wall’s final ending. We wish it… to turn into a part of this neighborhood that can be seen every day when people pass it by, and to be included into a bigger narrative.”