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Two performance artists detained

By Yin Yeping  (Global Times)

13:20, September 28, 2012

Police confirmed Thursday that two male artists, who were detained at Songzhuang Art Zone in Tongzhou district, were transferred to Tongzhou district detention house after being held in custody at Songzhuang police station on Wednesday.

The two Chinese artists were detained as they took part in a piece of performance art in Xiaopu Square, in Songzhuang Art Zone at 10 am Wednesday.

They were holding a banner calling for the abolition of re-education through labor, according to Wang Zang, another Songzhuang artist. Wang, who witnessed the performance, named the two participants as Liao Jinxing and Kuang Laowu.

"The two artists were holding a white banner with black words, which said 'abolish reeducation through labor and release the artists,'" he said.

"About eight security guards stopped them after they walked around 20 meters," said Wang.

A police officer at Songzhuang police station, surnamed Zhang, told the Global Times that the artists have been transferred to the district detention house Thursday.

"We can't give specifics unless you are related to a person in custody," said Zhang.

Zhang said he did not know why the artists were detained.

Other artists from Songzhuang have been involved in controversial performance art.

In May 2011, Beijing-based artist Cheng Li was sentenced to one year of re-education through labor after staging a performance art piece called Sensitive Times, in which he simulated sexual intercourse with a woman at the Beijing Museum of Contemporary Art in Songzhuang in March 2011.

Cheng was charged with "disturbing the public order" and "holding a pornographic performance in public," according to a previous Global Times report on May 9, 2011.

Hong Feng, director of the Art Promotion Association of Songzhuang Art Zone, said he knew nothing of this incident.

"But the artists should abide by societal rules, like not doing anything to disrupt social order or break the law," he said.

A number of legal experts in China have recently called for a rethink of the re-education through labor system, after a woman, Tang Hui, was sent to a re-education through labor center in early August for disturbing social order.

Tang had protested the treatment of her daughter, who she alleged was forced into prostitution. She was later released.

The case brings to light "re-education through labor" sentences, a system of administrative detention handed down by the public security bureau rather than through the system, a common practice which lawyers claim is not codified in the Chinese Constitution.

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