Hong Kong organizers of an exhibition by a dissident Chinese-Australian cartoonist, a persistent thorn in the side of leaders in Beijing, cancelled the event in the Chinese-ruled city on Friday given what they said were threats by China.

The exhibition by Badiucao was to have been his first international solo event. His work highlights themes including rights violations and abuse of power under Chinese Communist Party rule and he often satirizes President Xi Jinping.

"We are sorry to announce that the exhibition 'Gongle', by Chinese artist Badiucao, has been cancelled out of safety concerns," wrote the organizers, Hong Kong Free Press, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, in a statement.