Chinese dissident cartoonist Rebel Pepper has been awarded Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award for Arts. The win was revealed last night in London, during Index’s Awards Gala.
Rebel Pepper, the pseudonym of Wang Liming, has long targeted the Chinese regime in his work. In 2014, he fled China for Japan, where he lives in exile. He continues to criticize his home country from abroad despite the Chinese government’s attempts to silence him by deleting his social media accounts. Liming does this despite significant financial hardship, Chinese surveillance, and a sometimes uncertain future in Japan.
Liming was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to visa issues, but he was able to accept the award via video, which can be viewed here.
“China has little to no freedom of speech and its people are constantly living in fear under this totalitarian regime,” Liming said in his acceptance speech. “The Chinese Communist Party often portray the Chinese administration as being honourable and righteous and delude the people into believing in this false portrayal.”
Liming also spoke to the power that political cartoons can have in criticizing governments:
Political cartoons are significant as I can use my works to peel away the mask of false perfection put on by the Chinese government. The humour and satire employed in my works can also help lighten the mood and dispel the fear that the Chinese people have towards the administration. I feel that these are the key reasons why political cartoons play such an important role in China.
The Chinese government has a long history of abusing and terrorizing dissident artists. In addition to Rebel Pepper, Chinese cartoonist Badiucao fled his home country for Australia. Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei was deported back to China from Thailand in 2015 despite having been granted refugee status by the United Nations. He was taken into custody and little has been heard from him since.
Five Hong Kong booksellers mysteriously disappeared in late 2015 and were presumed to be in the custody of mainland Chinese authorities, but only one has spoken up after his release. Lam Wing Kee confirmed that he was detained against his will and that interrogators were seeking information on mainland customers who have bought banned books from his shop. Unlike the other four men, Lam has no family members on the mainland who could be used as leverage by authorities.
In closing, Liming pledged to continue his work. “I will continue working hard on creating new cartoons – this is the least I can do towards democratising China.”
CBLDF congratulates Liming on the well-deserved win!