Dharamshala — A gallery in Macau has cancelled an event and opening by a Tibetan painter after authorities in Beijing threatened to arrest and deport him if he tried to enter the Chinese-administered region, according to the artist.
Tashi Norbu, a Tibetan artist based in the Netherlands, was scheduled to hold a live-painting performance at Macau’s Lilau Square as part of the opening of the Amber Gallery on March 5th, but was contacted in Hong Kong by a gallery official and told to leave the city immediately for his own safety.
“A ranking Chinese military officer informed the gallery director that I was on a blacklist and my entry to Macau is forbidden,” Norbu told reporters, after fleeing Hong Kong, where he had recently exhibited his work, for Dharamsala.
“The Chinese official reasoned that whatever I display [at the gallery] will be against the Chinese government, so he warned that … if I go, then I would be [arrested and] deported.”
Norbu said the gallery director felt it was better to heed the warning because of his experience with “previous instances” in which artists had been targeted by Chinese authorities in Macau, a former Portuguese colony that was returned to China’s rule in 1999.
“The art gallery also advised me to leave [Hong Kong], because they could not bear responsibility if anything happened to me,” he said, adding that the conversation “really frightened me” and led him to purchase an airline ticket to India the same day.
He claims that his art is not political in nature, though he has painted scenes depicting exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—who Beijing accuses of stoking tension in the Tibetan region—and yellow umbrellas—a symbol of Hong Kong’s 2014 democracy protests.
Norbu was briefly detained by authorities while entering and leaving Macau in April last year for a show of his work that received considerable media attention.