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China detains Chinese-Australian artist: associates
Protesters hold a huge banner as they shout slogans at a rally in Hong Kong on June 1, 2014, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Hong Kong is the only city in China to openly mark the anniversary. AFP PHOTO / ANTHONY WALLACE.

BEIJING (AFP).- A Chinese-Australian artist has been detained in Beijing just before the Tiananmen Square anniversary, associates said Monday, with Canberra informing Beijing of its "strong interest" in the case.

Guo Jian, a former Tiananmen Square protester, was taken away on Sunday night from his home in Songzhuang, an art colony on the eastern fringe of Beijing, according to two of his acquaintances.

"My friend, the painter Guo Jian, has been taken away by the police," author Murong Xuecun wrote Monday in a posting on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Curator and critic Yang Wei, who is based in the same Beijing district as Guo, wrote in a Weibo message that Guo's detention was triggered by his recent work on a Tiananmen-themed art installation.

The 52-year-old Chinese-born Australian "was taken away by police from his Songzhuang studio today because he made a 'Meat Square' installation", Yang wrote in a late Sunday message, adding that the exhibition has not yet opened to the public.

Guo managed to send two short text messages to friends to say he had been taken by police, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

It cited a friend, artist Melanie Wang, as saying she was able to reach Guo on the phone briefly. He said police told him he would be released in 15 days.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs said it was troubled by the report.

"The Australian embassy in Beijing has contacted Chinese authorities to seek further information on the reported detention of Mr Guo Jian and to underline our strong interest in the matter," a spokesman told AFP.

"The Australian government stands ready to extend all possible consular assistance to Mr Guo."

Guo's detention came just days before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, during which hundreds of people were killed -- by some estimates, more than 1,000.

China censors any mention of the crackdown and has ramped up already strict controls ahead of the anniversary.

Police have detained some 20 prominent liberal academics, lawyers and activists in recent weeks, according to the US-based group Human Rights in China.

Among them are Pu Zhiqiang, one of China's most celebrated human rights lawyers, and Gao Yu, a veteran reporter previously jailed for her writing on the Tiananmen protests.

Friends of Guo believe he was taken in by authorities because of a recent interview with the Financial Times, the Herald reported.

During the interview, he revealed he had created an artwork to privately commemorate the anniversary, covering a large diorama of Tiananmen Square with 160 kilograms of minced meat.

Guo reportedly emigrated to Australia in 1992 and returned to China in 2005.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

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