£7bn Hong Kong museum faces censorship threat from China over fears some exhibits may incite ‘hatred’ of Beijing

  • M+ will present the work of Japanese, Asian, and Western leaders 
  • A top official from Hong Kong warned that freedom of expression isn’t above security law
  • Pro-China politicians had previously critiqued works in M+ Pavilion 

A £7billion museum opens in Hong Kong today mired in a row over censorship.

M+ will display the works of Western, Chinese and Asian leaders in an attempt to compete with the Tate Modern in London.

On the day of the opening, a Hong Kong top official cautioned that expression is not protected by a China-imposed security law. This law threatens to imprison you for any ‘acts that are against the interests Beijing’. 

Pro-China politicians have previously criticized works at the M+ pavilion as inciting hatred against Beijing.

A photo of artist Ai Weiwei (64) showing him pointing up at Tiananmen Square was included in the group. 

A photographer takes a picture near a painting titled New Beijing created by Chinese artist Wang Xingwei during a media preview in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong

A photographer snaps a photo near a New Beijing painting by Wang Xingwei, during a preview at the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong

Henry Tang (head of West Kowloon Cultural District), which encompasses the M+ insists that exhibits must comply with security law. He was open to the police vetting artworks.

Ai Weiwei stated from Cambridge, his home: “The museum is undercensorship.”

Mr Tang said: ‘The opening of M+ does not mean that artistic expression is above the law. It is not.’

He added: “I have no doubt that the MoMA in New York probably has artworks in its archives that would not be displayed today because it would not be politically acceptable in today’s environment.’

M+ welcomes police vetting, Mr Tang stated.

A man walks past an art installation titled Whitewash created by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

A man passes an installation of art titled Whitewash, created by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Swiss collector Uli Sigg, whose donation to M+ included Ai’s ‘middle finger’, issued an open letter that warned of ‘a different understanding in much of China – and obviously in parts of Hong Kong society – … of what contemporary art is about’.

Opening four years later than planned, M+ was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who created the Tate Modern.

Its collection includes paintings, ceramics, videos and installations from artists like China’s Zhang Xiaogang and British sculptor Antony Gormley.

After massive protests in Hong Kong last year, Beijing passed the nation security law.