Hua Yong: Artist Who Documented Beijing Forced Evictions 'Released And Reunited With Daughter'

A Chinese artist arrested after documenting forced evictions of migrant workers in Beijing has reportedly been reunited with his family.

Hua Yong, a 48-year-old painter, was arrested on Saturday (December 16) from a friend's house in the city of Tianjin. He had fled his house in Beijing to evade police, according to AFP.

His friends warned Hua's whereabouts were unknown following his arrest.

"Police grabbed him. Didn't you know? Nobody is able to contact him," a friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

However, it now seems that he has been released on bail.

"He arrived in Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan province, at 6pm [10 am GMT], and reunited with his daughter for her birthday," Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International, told Newsweek.

He added that the artist might still be under tight surveillance.

"We saw similar situation in other activists' cases," said Poon, He added that, according to sources on the ground, he was"criminally detained on suspicion of 'gathering a crowd to disturb transport order' and was released on bail today."

In the weeks before his arrest, Hua had been posting dozens of videos on his YouTube channel and Chinese social media platform WeChat documenting the evictions and featuring interviews with evicted workers.

One of his latest videos posted on Friday shows the artist claiming police were at the door and he would soon leave with them.

In another video, addressed to his three-year-old daughter, Yong says: "Daddy is using these last minutes to sing you a song, 'Happy birthday to you' ... Daddy wants our country to be better; It should be just, fair, free and democratic with free speech.

"This is how I want to contribute to this country. I am willing to sacrifice my flesh and blood, my body, in defense of the rights of a citizen to tell the truth. A citizen's right to be human. When daddy is free again, I will take you to see the world."

In 2012, Hua was sentenced to labor work after he took part in a manifestation to pay homage to the victims who died during protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Chinese embassy in London has not replied to a request for a comment on the case.

Chinese artists and activists had already condemned forced evictions taking place in Beijing earlier this year, arguing that they amounted to human rights violations.

The latest round of evictions was sparked following a fire that killed 19 people in an industrial neighborhood in Beijing on November 18. The majority of the victims were migrants.

City officials declared a 40-day campaign to target illegal structures.

The mass displacements triggered demonstrations, rare in the country.

Chinese artist Hua Yong
In the weeks before his arrest, Hua had been posting dozens of videos on his YouTube channel and Chinese social media platform WeChat,documenting evictions of migrant workers in Beijing. Hua Yong/ YouTube

Activists believe the government is using the incident to accelerate its plans to modernize the capital and drive out so-called "low-end migrants workers".

Authorities have denied the allegations, claiming that they are saving lives.

"His [Hua's] case shows the Chinese government is even more intolerant towards exposing what happened during the evictions of migrants in Beijing," Poon continued.

"What he did was simply taking videos to document what he saw about the evictions. That's nothing the government can claim to be illegal. Yet, the government still attempted to silence him."