China detains artist for mocking president Xi Jinping

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Chinese police have detained an artist for creating an image of Communist leader Xi Jinping with a crinkled face and a moustache, according to a human rights group.

Shanghai police held artist and photographer Dai Jianyong, who posted the image online, on Wednesday for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", said Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of Chinese and international rights groups.

The photo of Mr Xi, which was re-posted on the organisation's website, showed the Chinese President and Communist Party chief with a moustache that some have compared to that of the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler.

The crinkled facial expression, which Mr Dai himself uses in photographs, has been likened to an anus.

Mr Dai also posted online the image of Mr Xi on a t-shirt, but it was unclear if Mr Dai ever sold or distributed products with the photo.

Shanghai police could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Mr Dai is being held under "administrative detention" by the authorities in Shanghai's Changning district, the rights group said. His fate remains unclear and he could be formally arrested.

Radio Free Asia, which is backed by the US government, quoted his friend and fellow artist Wu Tun as saying: "He did a satirical portrait of Xi Jinping, merging his own face with Xi's in Photoshop."

He added: "He's a photographer and he usually shoots a lot of different things."

China imposes tight controls over art and culture, though it has relaxed some cultural controls from the 1970s, when popular art consisted of little more than propaganda in accordance with the doctrines of then leader Mao Zedong.

Last year, Mr Xi told artists not to chase popularity with "vulgar" works but to promote socialism instead.

His comments drew comparisons to a well-known speech by Mao in the 1940s which outlined his view that the arts should serve politics.