George Washington University (GWU) President Mark Wrighton apologized Monday for an earlier email he sent calling anti-China artwork offensive and vowing to remove the art from campus.
Wrighton initially said he was “personally offended” by posters showing the art, which criticizes China, and he said he was working to have the posters removed and find the person responsible for posting them.
“I treasure the opportunity to work with talented people from all over the world, including China,” Wrighton’s initial email read, according to Badiucao, the artist who designed the posters. “I, too, am saddened by this terrible event and we will undertake an effort to determine who is responsible.”
1. In response to CSSA, GeorgeWashington Uni @GWtweets president @PresWrightonGW claims he is “personally offended” by my art criticising China’s rights abuse like Uyghur genocide & oppression in Tibet & HongKong.
I demand him an explanation why exposing CCP’s abuse offends him. pic.twitter.com/Bm5k2nFAJ4
— 巴丢草 Badiucao💉💉 (@badiucao) February 7, 2022
The posters in question showed Badiucao’s Olympics-themed artwork, which features a snowboarder riding a surveillance camera, an Olympic shooter pointing his rifle at a blindfolded Uyghur Muslim and a curler sliding an animated coronavirus particle.
The school’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association sent out an email claiming the posters had “serious racist views” and carried out “extremely vicious personal attacks on all international students from China and Asian groups,” according to screenshots shared by Badiucao. The email also urged the school to “punish” those who hung up the posters “severely.”
A representative from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said students being punished for hanging the posters should reach out to FIRE for legal assistance. (RELATED: Former UCLA ‘Philosophy Of Race’ Lecturer Makes Racially Charged Shooting Threat Against School)
Wrighton apologized for his initial response after Badiucao made the emails public on Twitter. Wrighton said he responded to the complaint without seeing the posters, but has since learned that the art was a political statement and not racism. “I want to be very clear: I support freedom of speech—even when it offends people,” Wrighton said.
“I also support the many students and faculty at our university who are engaged in researching, and actively advocating against, all forms of discrimination, marginalization, and oppression,” Wrighton said.
The GWU president’s reaction to the posters comes amid criticism of the 2022 Winter Olympics being held in China due to the country’s human rights record, particularly its detainment of millions of Uyghur Muslims in forced labor camps and its early coverup of the coronavirus pandemic.
GWU’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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