May 21, 2019

A Chinese Artist Takes Aim at Google's Censored Search

“Badiucao’s new exhibition launches in Hong Kong on November 3, but the Chinese artist and cartoonist won’t be attending it, because he’s scared that if he does he’ll be “disappeared” by Communist Party of China (CPC) agents.

“I’m worried I’d become another Gui Minhai,” Badiucao told me in a phone interview, referring to the Swedish national who ‘went missing’ in Thailand in 2015 after publishing books about Chinese President Xi Jinping, and who remains in the custody of Chinese authorities.

Irked by Google readying a new search engine that will censor subjects the CPC wants hidden from the Chinese public—such as its human rights abuses against over a million Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region—Badiucao has prepared Gongle: his new exhibition. He has depicted Google CEO Sundar Pichai wearing a Trump-esque red cap bearing the slogan ‘Make wall great again’: a reference to the CPC’s ‘Great Firewall,’ that blocks thousands of sites and apps, including Google’s search engine.

Badiucao is a pseudonym and the artist resides outside China. Such caution is sensible in the current climate. Badiucao made his name, albeit a fake one, by being a sharp critic of the Chinese government, celebrating political prisoners like the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, and ridiculing President Xi Jinping in his works.

In China, where Xi’s crackdown on free speech and dissent has shocked human rights groups, such work would likely see Badiucao jailed for “subversion.” But by working abroad and in the shadows he has been able to escape repercussions, and has now focused his critical crosshairs on Google. Last month he got a batch of the caps made for real and distributed them around Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.”

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