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China's corrupt Communists in the frame for graft

Zhang Bingjian in front of his art installation 'Hall of Fame' Photo: PETER FOSTER

A Chinese artist has risked the wrath of the Communist Party by preparing to mount exhibition that highlights its burgeoning number of corrupt officials.

The daring new art work highlights the scale of graft in the world's largest emerging economy, which wages a constant war on corruption.

The work, entitled "Hall of Fame", contains the portraits of 680 officials who have been successfully been prosecuted for embezzling, stealing or collecting bribes.

The installation by the Beijing-based contemporary artist, Zhang Bingjian, aims to confront viewers with portraits of the jailed officials all painted in the crimson red of China largest denomination 100 yuan banknote.

In a capitalist twist the works were commissioned from an 'art factory' in Shenzhen where artists are paid to paint cheap knock-offs of Western art for sale abroad.

The offenders' crimes and sentences are stamped on the side of the canvases using official 'chops', or seals, which are symbol of authority in China.

Mr Zhang said he hoped to demonstrate Chinese society increasingly lacked moral compass.

"I was watching the television news during the National People's Congress last year and heard that more than 3,000 corrupt officials had been prosecuted in the previous year and I was shocked. I had no idea we had so many corrupted officials," he said. "Later that night I was watching the NBA basketball which was talking about the 'Hall of Fame' and a connection just went off in my mind. The piece just grew from that thought."

Where photographs of the officials are unavailable, the canvases remain blank, stamped with a request to viewers to supply a photograph of the offender. Chinese internet users track down real people through online networks, one known as the human flesh' search engine.

China's government has long railed with little effect against corruption, estimating that some 4,000 officials have fled abroad since between 1978-2003 carrying off assets estimated a total of almost £33bn.

The Communist Party recently issued a new code of ethics containing 52 rules banning the use of government money to throw lavish weddings and banquets, run fleets of luxury cars and travel abroad 'on business'.

Zhang, 49, is seeking a gallery to exhibit his installation which will continue to grow as further officials are convicted – he is already at work on several officials from China football association arrested in connection with a recent fraud.

The work has attracted attention from China's online public who are increasingly vocal about corruption issues.

"Zhang said he would continue the painting work until the extinction date of corruptions. I am afraid he will be in endless waiting for that date!" quipped one blogger on the platform.

Zhang, who returned to China in 2001 after 10 years in the US, himself has had no official reaction to his creation, although when he posted portraits of some of China's most notorious official offenders on his blog, some of them were taken down by the censors.

Among the deleted pictures was that of Chen Liangyu, a politburo member and Shanghai party secretary who was sentenced to 18 years in 2008 for financial fraud, abuse of power, and accepting bribes.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2010 17:01