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China jails painter for not using enough red color in paintings

27, Dec 2009 By Pagal Patrakar

Beijing, China. A Chinese court has awarded 11 years imprisonment to acclaimed painter Liu Xiaobo for not using red color, the national color of China, in his paintings for continuously over 20 years now. Liu was already in jail since 2008, after being arrested for painting a black rose even though one is supposed to imagine only red roses in China. It’s not yet clear if Liu would need to spend fresh 11 years in prison or his recent days in jail would be allowed for.

“His sentence would have been much harsher. The law provisions for 15 years of jail for inciting subversion of the state color. He has got off lightly!” said a Chinese government spokesperson amidst international protests by fellow painters. The government has warned that any external attempt to lobby for reduction of the jail term would lead to even harsher punishment for Liu.

The first painting by Liu Xiaobo where he didn’t use red color at all
The first painting by Liu Xiaobo where he didn’t use red color at all

“He was given enough chances to mend his errant ways while in jail. We couldn’t take it anymore when he again refused to use red color even while painting a portrait of Santa Claus on Christmas this Friday. He painted a Santa wearing a green cloak with number eight (8) written on it prominently, and was subsequently found guilty.” informed the Chinese spokesperson.

Many Chinese security officials suspect Liu to be a regressive religious rebel backed by Dalai Lama and the USA for having used the number eight, for the Buddhist symbol Dharmachakra has eight spokes and represents the noble eightfold path. But friends and family members of Liu have rejected such accusations by the government agencies.

“Liu has got nothing to do with US or Dalai Lama, he just wanted freedom for common Chinese to choose their own colors while painting and not be overburdened with red, as the state wishes. He has been painting since 1989, and had stopped using red color just as a mark of protest. We didn’t know he’d be jailed for this.” Liu’s wife Xia said.

To deter further protests by painters, Chinese government is thinking of passing a law making all the painting canvases red by default.