Chinese Art Colony's Free-Speech Illusion Shatters

October 17, 2014 3:04 PM

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BEIJING (AP) — Just a few weeks ago, oil painters in eastern Beijing's Songzhuang art district had welcomed foreign reporters into their studios and shown off works tackling such touchy subjects as China's prisons and Communist Party politics. Over lunch, they candidly lamented the state of free speech in China while chewing on chicken and downing glasses of beer.

In a tightly controlled society where dissent is quickly squashed, the artists of Songzhuang appeared to be enjoying a rarely seen degree of creative and political freedom. But then, on Oct. 1, that illusion was shattered.

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