Swedish restaurant removes 'racist' art installation of Chinese President Xi Jinping

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By Matthew Holroyd
The artist @ironartworks said the intention was to "make a fool" of China's COVID-19 pandemic response, rather than any racist comment.
The artist @ironartworks said the intention was to "make a fool" of China's COVID-19 pandemic response, rather than any racist comment.   -  Copyright  Euronews

A Swedish restaurant has apologised and removed a controversial art installation of Chinese President Xi Jinping after criticism that claimed the piece was "racist".

Restaurant Riche, in the Swedish capital Stockholm, put the artwork named "Bat Man" on display on September 9.

The posters depicted the Chinese President with bat ears and red lips in front of a Japanese-style rising sun, in an apparent reference to the theory that the coronavirus originated in bats.

But the piece was criticised online for being "racist" and "distressing".

Filipino fashion influencer @Bryanboy said he was shocked to find images on the walls of the restaurant, which he has regularly visited.

Posting on Instagram, Bryanboy, whose real name is Bryan Yambao, said he was "embarrassed and mortified" to see the posters.

"When my friend and I saw them, I was shocked," Yambao told Euronews.

"It was unexpected, especially from a restaurant that I’ve been going to regularly for over a decade. It felt awful.

Restaurant Riche said it "sincerely apologise[s] to anyone that was offended" after people had found the exhibition "disturbing and racist, which was of course not the intention".

The exhibition had been due to run until October 9 but the restaurant's permanent decoration has now been restored.

The Swedish street artist behind the poster, "Iron" also apologised on Instagram for any offence the piece had caused.

"My intention was only to make a fool of Xi [Jinping]/CCP [Chinese Communist Party] not to make a racist comment that hurt a lot of people", they wrote.

The artist, who publishes work under the name Iron Art Works, added that their previous art included satirical depictions of a number of world leaders.

"I can't stretch (sic) enough how much I apologise for the people who got their feelings hurt by it".

Iron said they would also remove any social media posts featuring the poster except for the apology "to contribute to the open discussion" about China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first cases of coronavirus were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province in December.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally in 2020, people of Asian heritage reported instances of xenophobia and hostility.

In February, French-Asian citizens shared the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus ("I am not a virus") in the face of a wave of stigma and discrimination.

Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump has faced backlash for repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as a "Chinese virus".

The WHO has warned against associating the virus with locations or ethnicities and says the "official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatisation".