"It is reported that the National Security Department of the police has formulated an arrest action for Jens Galschiot intending to use the "Pillar of Shame" related incident to come to Hong Kong for political disturbances, and has decided to activate Article 55 of the "Hong Kong National Security Law", and the relevant cases will be handed over to the National Security Office in Hong Kong Exercising jurisdiction to transfer its arrangement to the Mainland for trial."
I truly believe this is a trial balloon to explore possibilities for preventing artists like me from coming to Hong Kong to testify in court cases in defense of democracy and, in particular, the use of art projects in Hong Kong.
Especially the threat of sending me to mainland China would be a very radical and unprecedented step, and (I believe) without legality in Hong Kong's legislation.
But perhaps that's the legislation they are trying to change so that Hong Kong can become just like mainland China.
However, there is something that Hong Kong is not aware of, namely, private property rights and their security, as well as the trading systems. These are guaranteed rights in Hong Kong and are the reason why Hong Kong is an international financial center that is crucial for both China and Asia. Tampering with these rights risks triggering a collapse of the entire trading system.
Why would anyone trade through Hong Kong if they cannot trust its legislation and legal security?
Jeopardizing the Hong Kong art market
“According to Sing Tao, the arrest warrant for me Galschiøt is linked to the prosecution of Zeng Yuxuan, a doctoral student from mainland China found in possession of posters depicting the "Pillar of Shame (…)" (Radio Free Asia)
The mentioned Pillar of Shame poster is one of a number of lithographic artworks produced in very few copies, numbered and hand-signed by me (Jens Galschiøt). The woman hung it up in her private room, so, when the police confiscate this lithographic artwork during a house search in a private home, they introduce art censorship, an attack on art, and an intrusion into a private art collection. This is completely unheard of in Hong Kong. As I see it, there is nothing, not even in the security legislation, that prohibits having art hung up in private or artistic contexts.
This action risks triggering a larger collapse in the art world, as Hong Kong is also a center for extensive trade in artworks and is one of the most important art markets in Asia. If the woman is sentenced, it will become impossible for a museum, gallery, or auction house to present art that is critical of China without risking a conviction for "subversive activity" towards the Chinese state.Exhibition venues and auction houses will have to conduct extensive screening of artworks exhibited or offered at auction houses located in Hong Kong (and in China) and then introduce extensive art censorship.
This problem is not particularly problematic for exhibition venues in mainland China, as they are used to this form of censorship, and it is a type of censorship that has always taken place in mainland China.
But in Hong Kong, there has always been full freedom of expression and artistic freedom. The problem is that this will have extensive and serious consequences for Hong Kong's exhibition scene and especially for the western-owned auction houses like Christie's (FR), Bonhams (GB), and Sotheby's (FR), which are the backbone of a large art market in Hong Kong and Asia.
If these auction houses comply with the security legislation and introduce screening and censorship of China-critical art, they will effectively accept turning their auction houses into instruments for introducing censorship in Hong Kong. This is contrary to the principles of the Western world regarding the inviolability of art and in violation of agreements with China concerning Hong Kong's transition to mainland China.
This conflict risks compromising the auction houses, which will be seen as actors restricting freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
The Mayer Brown case as presedence
The American law firm Mayer Brown, was working for University of Hong Kong. They faced extensive global criticism when they took on the role of attacking the artwork "The Pillar of Shame" and contributed to having the artwork removed after 25 years of exhibition at the university.
They were criticized in the US during a Senate hearing on the matter, as it was considered incompatible for an American-based firm to participate in such activities. After a week of media storm, the large firm withdrew from representing University of Hong Kong.
The same situation risks affecting western-owned auction houses and exhibition venues; They will get into trouble in the western countries if they censor their display of China-critical art. But if they do not they will immediately face charges from the security bureau of "subversive activity" in Hong Kong and possibly the confiscation of their exhibited works as evidence in a lawsuit against them. The same way it happened to the Pillar of Shame.
With best regards, Jens Galschiøt.