Last week, George Washington University president Mark S. Wrighton vowed to remove posters by political cartoonist and Chinese dissident Badiucao following student outcry. Later on, he swiftly reversed course after further backlash. The poster’s content, which centers on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, calls out China’s alleged human-rights abuses such as the Uyghur genocide and oppression in Tibet and Hong Kong.
In an email reportedly sent to a concerned student, Wrighton wrote that he was “personally offended” by the content and would “undertake an effort to determine who is responsible” for them. Badiucao tweeted a screenshot of the email, adding that he was demanding “an explanation why exposing CCP’s abuse offends him.”
At first glance, the poster appears to showcase Olympians competing in their respective sports such as ice skating and snowboarding. But, on closer inspection, a coronavirus rendering has taken the place of a curling stone; an ice skater’s blades drip with blood, forming a fractured Emblem of Hong Kong; a hockey player stabs a person dressed as a Tibetan monk. Badiucao, who has been in self-imposed exile in Australia since 2009, was alerted to the situation by GWU students.
Yesterday, Wrighton issued a statement, which was sent to the university’s community, saying he had “responded hastily” after GWU received a “number of concerns through official university reporting channels that cited bias and racism against the Chinese community.” He called his emailed reply and the university staff’s decision to remove the posters “mistakes.”
Wrighton added, “I have since learned from our university’s scholars that the posters were designed by a Chinese-Australian artist, Badiucao, and they are a critique of China’s policies. Upon full understanding, I do not view these posters as racist; they are political statements. There is no university investigation underway, and the university will not take any action against the students who displayed the posters.”
The artist, however, was not “100 percent satisfied” with Wrighton’s statement and would like a “more sincere apology” he told the National Review in a follow-up interview on Monday.
He added, “I hope in the future people in America [won’t shy] away from [criticizing] the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity and human rights and [will] be able to tell what is racist and what is not, instead of just remaining silent because they are afraid of being called racist.”