By Tenzin Lekhden
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 9: The President of George Washington University, Mark Wrighton, retracted a statement issued last week which showed solidarity to the Chinese students who complained that a series of Boycott Beijing 2022 posters were “racist”. The President admitted that the measures taken in response were a “mistake” and that he “responded hastily” to an email from a student in which he wrote that “[he] too was offended by the posters.”
A week ago, days before the Winter Olympics, a group of Chinese scholars and students accused the Boycott Beijing 2022 posters of being “racist” and reported to the university officials that the illustrations were “anti-China”, hence must be condemned.
The University’s President Mr Wrighton, at the time, threatened the students who had put up the posters and apologised to the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA). In an email, responding to one of the students, he wrote, “please know that I am personally offended by the posters….we are working to have all these offensive posters removed as soon as possible.” He further added, “I, too, am saddened by this terrible event and we will undertake an effort to determine who is responsible.”
The posters, a series of political cartoons, were an artistic campaign by dissident Chinese artist Badiucao highlighting the human rights atrocities in China’s colonised regions in the context of the Winter Games. The collection of five artworks depicts well known human rights atrocities committed against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and the dismantling of democracy in Hong Kong.
The artist, sometimes known as ‘Chinese Banksy’, in light of the news, tweeted that “I demand him an explanation why exposing CCP’s abuse offends him.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, following the statement from President Wrighton, wrote, “Censorship may be welcome at the Beijing Olympics, but it doesn’t belong on campus.”
On 8 February, President Wrighton issued a new statement, wherein he said the actions carried out earlier in response to the CSSP’s complaint were a mistake and the things he wrote were done in haste and without context. He wrote, “at the time, without more context on the origin or intent of the posters, I responded hastily to the student, writing that I, too, was concerned…These responses were mistakes.”
He said that after learning that the illustrations were the works of the dissident Chinese artist, Badiucao, which were a critique of the Chinese government’s policies, “[he] doesn’t view these posters as racist” anymore.
Badiucao, earlier this morning in an interview with CNN, said that we can’t use the recent slew of anti-Asian cries as an excuse for the CCP’s human rights abuses. “The Chinese Government is always very good at using these kinds of misleading terms to confuse the idea between people, country, and government. They will cancel your legitimate criticisms against the Chinese government by framing it as racism and anti-China.”