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POLITICS

Italy rejects China’s bid to stop an art show by ‘Chinese Banksy’ rebel

An Italian city is going ahead with plans to host an art exhibition by a Chinese dissident despite a request from China's embassy to cancel it, the mayor said in comments published Friday.

Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist whose anonymous political satire earned him comparisons with Banksy - and the wrath of Beijing - outed himself as a former law school student who became politicised after watching a Tiananmen Square documentary in a dorm room.
Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist whose anonymous political satire earned him comparisons with Banksy - and the wrath of Beijing - outed himself as a former law school student who became politicised after watching a Tiananmen Square documentary in a dorm room. (Photo by Odd Andersen / AFP)

The exhibition by Badiucao, a cartoonist also known as “The Chinese Banksy”, is expected to denounce Chinese political repression and censorship of information on the Covid pandemic.

The show, called “China is (not) near,” is due to run from November 13th to February 13th in the northern Italian city of Brescia, about 100 kilometres east of Milan.

Brescia Mayor Emilio Del Bono told Il Foglio newspaper on Friday that his office would not comply with a request from the Chinese embassy in Italy to scrap it.

He said the friendship between the Italian and Chinese people “is not in question”, but “I think it is important to show that you can stay friends while criticising some things.”

The deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, earlier tweeted that “For us art and freedom of expression are an essential combination.”

Her message accompanied pictures of newspaper reports about the alleged censorship request from the cultural affairs office of the Chinese embassy in Rome.

Local paper Giornale di Brescia has quoted a letter from the cultural office to the council, in which it complained that Badiucao’s works “are full of anti-Chinese lies”.

READ ALSO: Spike in reports of ‘racist’ abuse of Chinese people in Italy

It alleged that they “distort facts, spread false information,” mislead the Italian public and “jeopardise friendly relations between China and Italy.”

The cultural office closed the letter expressing “strong dissatisfaction” with the exhibition and asking the council “to act quickly to cancel the above mentioned activities”.

The press office of the Chinese embassy in Rome did not respond to phone calls from AFP seeking a comment.

Badiucao, who lives in Australia, calls himself on social media a “Chinese-Aussie Artist hunted by CCP [Chinese Communist Party]”. He says the one in Brescia will be his first international solo exhibition.   

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COST OF LIVING

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

Italy on Thursday night approved new measures worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion) to help families and businesses manage the surging cost of fuel and essentials.

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

As expected, the final version of the ‘aiuti-bis‘ decree provides another extension to the existing 30-cents-per-litre cut to fuel duty, more help with energy bills, and a tax cut for workers earning under 35,000 euros a year.

The package also includes further funding for mental health treatment: there’s another 15 million euros for the recently-introduced ‘psychologist bonus’ on top of the 10 million previously allocated.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

There are also measures to help agricultural firms deal with this year’s severe drought.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the new package as an intervention “of incredible proportions”, which corresponds to “a little over 2 points of national GDP”.

However, he said, no changes were made to the national budget to pave the way for the new measures.

The measures will be funded with 14.3 billion euros in higher-than-expected tax revenues this year, and the deployment of funds that have not yet been spent, Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco said.

Italy has already budgeted some 35 billion euros since January to soften the impact of rising fuel costs.

The decree is one of the last major acts by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

Elections are set for September 25th but the former European Central Bank chief is staying on in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

Draghi said the Italian economy was performing better than expected, citing the International Monetary Fund’s estimate of three percent for 2022.

“They say that in 2022, we will grow more than Germany, than France, than the average of the eurozone, more than the United States,” he told a press conference.

But he noted the many problems facing Italy, “from the high cost of living, to inflation, the rise in energy prices and other materials, to supply difficulties, widespread insecurity and, of course political insecurity”.

Inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

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