BEIJING — When the authorities demolished tens of thousands of homes occupied by migrant workers in Beijing last year, turning entire city blocks into flattened wasteland, the artist Yang Qian went to work.
Mr. Yang scavenged through piles of rubble, recovering hundreds of objects, including stuffed animals, broken glasses and scarlet-red children’s shoes. He sealed the objects in crystal columns to display at a Beijing art gallery, hoping to convey the idea that wealthier people treat the migrants, who come from poor rural areas in search of work, like garbage.
“As a socialist country you cannot divide people,” Mr. Yang said. “Every class in China should have the same rights.”
The heavy-handed efforts this winter by Beijing to drive out the migrants and their families have drawn international criticism. Officials view the crowded, slum-like neighborhoods as fire hazards and eyesores, despite the fact that the migrants do the menial jobs that allow a city like Beijing to function.
The forced demolitions have also inspired an outpouring of protest art in the form of paintings, photographs, songs and poetry, an unusual show of dissent in a country that routinely censors messages running counter to President Xi Jinping’s portrayal of an egalitarian society.
Musicians are performing rap songs that take aim at overzealous bureaucrats. Poets are condemning apathy and inequality in society. Painters are using scenes of devastation to denounce the harsh treatment of struggling families.