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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 12:31 GMT
Baby-eating art show sparks upset
A scene from Beijing Swings
Beijing Swings examined extreme art in China
A controversial UK TV programme featuring a Chinese artist apparently eating a stillborn baby has received a number of complaints from viewers.

About 15 viewers called in to complain following the transmission on Thursday night, while 50 others had already contacted Channel 4 to register their disgust before it was even aired.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe was one of those who had condemned the Beijing Swings documentary, which featured extreme art in China, as "hideous" before it was shown.

An estimated 900,000 tuned in to see the documentary, which went out at 2300 GMT on Thursday. It was beaten in the ratings by the 1997 movie Beverly Hills Cop II, which attracted 3.4 million viewers.

Beijing Swings featured footage of a man drinking wine that had an amputated penis added to it, as part of an investigation into extreme practices in China.

Cannibalism

The documentary also included stills of artist Zhu Yu biting into the body of a stillborn baby.

A Channel 4 spokesman said that while it takes all comments and complaints seriously, it stands by its decision to broadcast the programme.

The artist, Zhu Yu, was quoted as saying: "No religion forbids cannibalism.

"Nor can I find any law which prevents us from eating people. I took advantage of the space between morality and the law and based my work on it."

Mr Yu, who is a Christian, claims religion plays a major role in his work.

But before seeing the show, Ms Widdecombe said: "This programme sounds hideous."

The documentary's presenter, Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak, defended the documentary on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Deluded'

While he did not defend Mr Yu's practice, he said: "It is worth trying to understand why China is producing the most outrageous, the darkest art, of anywhere in the world."

The Chinese embassy in London also reportedly also condemned the programme.

Mr Yu's performance show, Eating People, was originally shown in 2000. It has been shown at the Third Shanghai Biennale in China.

Mr Yu's work is part of a wave of extreme art that has swept contemporary Chinese artistic circles.

The ministry of culture cracked down on what it termed "shock art" after the country was announced as the host to hold the 2008 Olympics.

See also:

30 Dec 02 | TV and Radio
19 Nov 02 | Arts
10 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
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