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Dissident Artist Taps NFTs to Protest Against China

While China may have been reportedly embracing the growth of the non-fungible token (NFT) concept within its borders despite frowning at cryptocurrencies as a main industry, these digitised ownership certificates are what an exiled Chinese dissident artist is now banking on to use as a tool of protest.

Australia-based Badiucao has put out a “protest NFT collection” with which he wants to use in criticising China’s human rights record as all eyes are on the Winter Olympics slated to start in Beijing on Friday February 4. Called the Beijing 2022 Collection, the NFTs include five works of art aimed at drawing global attention to what Badiucao considers to be China’s oppression of the Tibetan people, the Uyghur people, and the democratic process in Hong Kong. Also included are works about China’s surveillance systems and the lack of transparency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The exiled Chinese dissident artist notes on the collection’s web page why he is resorting to the technology in his battle against the Chinese government’s censorship over the past 10 years. He states that NFTs and blockchain technologies provide a safe way to offer critical financial support to dissident artists and “serve as an important immutable public record outside of authoritarian tampering and control.”

The collection, which launched on Chinese New Year day, February 1, will offer collectors the opportunity to write personal messages of opposition to China’s regime onto the blockchain as the NFTs get minted thus providing a way to preserve them as a public decentralized record of protest, the website states. He also plans to donate 10% of proceeds from the NFT sales to the Art in Protest Residency, a collaboration between the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and the Human Rights Foundation, where he had been an inaugural artist-in-residence for the programme. 


China growing big on NFT

Like other parts of the world where NFTs have gained popularity globally in the past year, China has been seen as pursuing other uses of blockchain technology and NFTs—as long as they remain under its control unlike major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. 

From Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and as well as other tech giants like Tencent and video streaming site Bilibili rebranding NFT offerings as “digital collectibles to the official Xinhua news agency issuing a digital media photo collection as NFTs, China has been growing big on NFT. Even state-backed multi-blockchain hosting network, Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) in December 2021 announced its plans to introduce support for NFTs which are to be denominated in Chinese yuan. BSN seeks to bring together these private companies that are currently operating separately and not interacting with one another. 

Badiucao has shown the Beijing 2022 works since the past year. They were on display in various locations around Miami and are also being exhibited at the Museo di Santa Giulia in Italy until February 13. Though not meant to be political, the artist’s choice to take the collection to the Olympic Games coincides with China’s supposed public roll out of its government-backed digital yuan which some governments have criticised as a tool to monitor users’ spending and to have access to other data. 

The global event also comes with several governments of the world announcing their diplomatic boycott of attendance in protest of human rights violations in China. The U.S., Australia, the U.K., and Canada have made their boycott known for the event which starts on Friday February 4. Others are European countries which include Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark.

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