As we wait for the re-opening of the trial, thought it would be interesting to share the quintessential image that came from the time last spring when Dawu and others banded together to ‘fight’ the property developers and local government surrounding the 008 International Art Community and the Zhengyang Artist Community. Both areas were specifically created by the local government vis-a-vis the property developers to allow artists and their families live and work. Each artist signed a 20 year lease in the spring/summer of 2008, which was renewable after the third year. The eviction notice was given in the summer of 2009, not more than 18 months after the first contacts were signed.
The artists were justifiably annoyed, as many had sunk in their entire savings and such into creating homes, warehouses, and working studio spaces. They were looking for some sort of compenstation, as they didn’t feel that it was right that they should lose their investment. They organized themselves and worked around the clock for many months trying to get the local government and the development company to see their side, and to agree to compensation.
This image was taken sometime in February, 2010, at their makeshift headquarters, which was the working studio/home of Liu Yi, the man with the bandage on his head to Dawu’s right. Why the bandage? After months of negotiations, meetings, and several failed court appearances, the developers moved in on the morning of February 22nd at around 2 am with close to 80 thugs, brandishing metal pipes and masks, and went amok on the cars in the compound, windows and doors of abandoned studios, and several of the remaining resident artists. Liu Yi, Wu Yuren and 6 others were badly injured and were taken to the hospital.
The next day, Wu and others discussed and agreed to march on Chang’an Avenue to make their point clearer than they had in the past several months, and to protest the abuse they had received from the thugs, that had been hired by the development company. The peaceful march on Chang’an Avenue was the first ever march on any significant road leading up to and including Tiananmen square since 1989, and lasted about 15 minutes, when the police showed up and took away their banners. Everyone just went home. However, Wu’s group had contacted enough media before hitting the street, that this march became an international story immediately.
A week and half later, Wu and others received a call asking them to come to the military hospital for a check up, as they had all been injured during the beating. They complied and went for their check ups. On the way out of the hospital, they were ushered into police vans waiting for them, where they were then taken to the police station on Jinbao Road, in Dongcheng District (the same district of where the march had taken place). They were all questioned and remained in custody for close to 30 hours. Each of the 4 detainees was released unharmed. Wu Yuren was driven home to his studio by a car load of police officers, who then came in and asked for his laptop computer (which has never been returned). Compensation was eventually granted to the communities in March, 2010.
Question remains: is Wu Yuren’s present situation a ‘revenge’ for his previous activities? If so, then why didn’t they grab him on the day of the march? Why didn’t they charge him when they grabbed him in early March with the crime, “Demonstrating, protesting in a public space without permission”? Why did they go through torturng him and creating a charge instead?
We may never know the answers to these and other questions.