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Chinese Communist Party slogans on London’s Brick Lane ricochet on Beijing

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug09’23) – An attempt to turn London’s famous Brick Lane into a Chinese propaganda board ricocheted on Beijing when it became a forum for scrutinizing China for everything that is wrong and going wrong there under Xi Jinping’s leadership these days. The huge backlash of pro-democracy slogans included calls for Xi Jinping’s resignation and references to the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, said rfa.org Aug 8.

It began with a group of artists and a propaganda slogan: 24 Chinese characters painted in bold red, stretching nearly 100 metres along Brick Lane in London’s East End, reported theguardian.com Aug 8.

It was stated to be Chinese art students who painted the slogans that make up the “12 Core Socialist Values” propaganda staple that are a common sight on the streets in China.

However, within hours of appearing on Saturday (Aug 5), the slogan was overlaid with references to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and phrases “Free Taiwan”, “Free Tibet” and “Free Uyghurs”, said the theguardian.com report.

By early Monday (Aug 7) morning, much of the text had been painted over by Tower Hamlets council, the London neighbourhood government that has jurisdiction over the lane painted over all the graffiti and counter-graffiti.

* * *

The 12 Core Socialist Values are prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendliness. Since they were first incorporated at the 18th Party Congress (during which Xi Jinping was anointed as the CCP’s top leader), they have become a staple of party propaganda.

A grafitti wall in Brick Lane was whitewashed and painted over with red slogans promoting China’s “core socialist values.” (Photo courtesy: @yiqueart/Instagram)

In popular culture, their ubiquity has led to the proliferation of “Soviet-style” jokes, whose punchlines almost invariably revolve around the arrest of anyone who mentions the core value of “democracy,” said chinadigitaltimes.net Aug 8.

This is because the Party-state’s definition of “democracy” is at odds with most academic and popular conceptions of the term. Indeed, “democracy” is sometimes censored on WeChat, forcing would-be propagandists to share the 11 Core Socialist Values and a pinyin stand-in for “democracy” (mínzhǔ).

Not long after the 12 Core Socialist Values appeared on the walls of Brick Lane, they were covered in counter-graffiti that were highly critical of the Party-state. Some wrote demands that Xi Jinping step down, or slogans evoking the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, such as “Never Forget June 4” and “It’s my duty.”

A group of feminists, one carrying a “last generation” bag, wrote: “Bringing down the government together with my sisters.” Others made reference to the feminist backlash against the Communist Youth League’s idealized virtual idol “Jiang Shanjiao.” Chains spray-painted around the slogan “rule of law” seemed to be a reference to Xiaohuamei, a woman who was chained up by her husband in a shed in Xuzhou, and was later found to have been trafficked and sold several times. Some added One Child Policy-era slogans.

A slogan promoting China’s socialist ideology in London’s Brick Lane has sparked a flurry of graffiti decrying the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party. (Photo courtesy: CNN)

“Demolish,” a once-ubiquitous character during China’s mass-demolition era, was also written on the wall. Others wrote “Glory 2 Hong Kong” and “I can’t, I don’t understand,” a reference to the late doctor Li Wenliang, who was censured by police for trying to warn the public of the coronavirus pandemic, continued the chinadigitaltimes.net report.

H, a 24-year-old Hong Kong asylum seeker living in London, sprayed a familiar slogan along the white wall. “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” is a phrase he has painted numerous times before as a participant in pro-democracy protests against Hong Kong’s draconian national security law in 2019, said theguardian.com report.

“Prosperity without innovation; Democracy without human Rights; Civilisation without morality” were JJ’s choice of words, written in green marker. The 38-year-old, who asked not to use her real name, was born in northern China and, armed with the understanding of the original slogan as “all lies”, said she needed to express her opinion, the report said.

* * *

While Tower Hamlets council painted over all the graffiti and counter-graffiti the following morning, the conversation about the Core Socialist Values continued on the Chinese internet, despite censorship.

Some WeChat users who tried to share photographs of the counter-graffiti via that platform reported that their WeChat accounts were suspended for unspecified violations of the law.

Weibo censored photographs of the counter-graffiti, as well. At one point, Weibo censored the hashtags #London Graffiti and #London Graffiti Wall, although many posts on the subject remained visible as of publication.

The WeChat essayist @没品驴 created a photo essay titled “Graffiti More Fitting For Study-Abroad Brats,” which included some spoofed images of the graffiti. Censors deleted the essay shortly after publication, said chinadigitaltimes.net, which said it archived some of the images from it.


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