HONG KONG — China's army has warned that an image of detained artist Ai Weiwei, briefly projected onto a Hong Kong barracks amid a campaign in the territory for his release, was illegal, a report said on Saturday.
An artist calling himself Cpak Ming displayed an image of the dissident's face with the words "Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei?" on the barracks, police headquarters and other buildings this week, the South China Morning Post said.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army told the newspaper: "No one can paint or project pictures and images onto the outer wall of the barracks without the garrison's permission.
"Such an offence is a breach of Hong Kong law. The PLA reserves its legal rights."
Residents of the semi-autonomous south China territory generally enjoy civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech, under the "one country, two systems" principle in place since Britain handed the city back to Beijing.
More than 1,000 people took part in a protest march a week ago demanding the release of Ai, who was detained in early April in Beijing for unspecified "economic crimes", sparking worldwide condemnation.
Supporters say the detention of the outspoken critic of China's Communist Party leaders is political and forms part of a crackdown on dissidents in recent weeks, under which scores of lawyers and campaigners have been held.
A rash of stencilled, painted graffiti in Ai's support has also appeared on the streets of the financial hub this month and is under investigation by police as a possible case of criminal damage, the Post reported.
The man responsible for the "flash graffiti" projections of Ai could not be contacted via his Facebook page, the newspaper said.
He has uploaded instructions to the social networking site so that Ai supporters could create their own displays.
Legislator Ronny Tong Kun-sun, a barrister, said he could not see that the projections broke the law.
"He is just expressing his opinion in a very short period of time and poses no permanent damage to the building," he told the paper.
The PLA -- the world's largest military force -- established bases in Hong Kong in 1997 when the territory ceased to be a British colony.
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