£7bn Hong Kong museum faces censorship threat from China over fears some exhibits may incite ‘hatred’ of Beijing

  • The M+ will feature the work of leading Chinese, Asian and Western artists 
  • Top Hong Kong official warned freedom of expression not above security law
  • Pro-China politicians previously criticised works in the M+ pavilion 

A £7billion museum opens in Hong Kong today mired in a row over censorship.

The M+ will feature the work of leading Chinese, Asian and Western artists in a bid to match the Tate Modern in London.

But on the eve of opening a top Hong Kong official warned that freedom of expression was not above a China-imposed national security law that threatens life imprisonment for ‘acts against the interests of Beijing’. 

Pro-China politicians previously criticised works in the M+ pavilion for inciting ‘hatred’ against Beijing.

They included a photo by artist Ai Weiwei, 64, putting his middle finger up in Tiananmen Square. 

A photographer takes a picture near a painting titled New Beijing created by Chinese artist Wang Xingwei during a media preview in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong

Henry Tang, head of the West Kowloon Cultural District, which includes the M+, insisted all exhibits must ‘comply’ with security law. He welcomed vetting of artworks by police.

Ai Weiwei said from his home in Cambridge: ‘The museum is under censorship.’

Mr Tang said: ‘The opening of M+ does not mean that artistic expression is above the law. It is not.’

He added: “I have no doubt that the MoMA in New York probably has artworks in its archives that would not be displayed today because it would not be politically acceptable in today’s environment.’

Mr Tang said M+ welcomed vetting of its works by police.

A man walks past an art installation titled Whitewash created by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

Swiss collector Uli Sigg, whose donation to M+ included Ai’s ‘middle finger’, issued an open letter that warned of ‘a different understanding in much of China – and obviously in parts of Hong Kong society – … of what contemporary art is about’.

Opening four years later than planned, M+ was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who created the Tate Modern.

Its collection includes paintings, ceramics, videos and installations from artists like China’s Zhang Xiaogang and British sculptor Antony Gormley.

Beijing imposed the national security law last year after massive anti-government protests shook Hong Kong in 2019. 

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