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Still No Word From Arrested Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei Arrested China

The big news yesterday: Ai Weiwei, the designer of the Birds’ Nest Olympic Stadium who since stumbled into the crosshairs of the Chinese government, was arrested on April 2 as he attempted to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. Beijing police raided his studio at the same time, confiscating computers and detaining Ai’s wife Lu Qing as well as several studio assistants. This is perhaps the most high-profile detention yet in has quickly become a ruthless crackdown on political dissidents in China.

Though Lu Qing and company have since been released, there remains no word of the artist’s own whereabouts. The spokesperson for Beijing police refuses to comment, or even acknowledge that they are holding Ai. In China, standard procedure for detaining a suspect requires that police inform the suspect’s family within 24 hours. The long period of silence is a worrying signal, suggesting that the Chinese government is willing to suspend rule of law — even for a figure as well-known as Ai — in order to maintain political stability.

From the AFP’s interview with Lu:

“As he was being detained, police came here with a search warrant and searched everywhere,” Lu said by telephone.

“They took the computer, computer disks and other materials. They refused to say why the search warrant was issued or why Ai Weiwei was taken away.”

Several of Ai’s assistants were also detained for questioning on Sunday, but later released, said Lu, adding that she was not under house arrest.

In an interview with ARTINFO, documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman, who has spent two years in the company of Ai Weiwei for her project, Ai Weiwei: Never Say Sorry, called this newest arrest an “escalation”:

Certainly over the last two years while I have been friends with him and filmed him he has had encounters with police in Sichuan and with authorities in Shanghai and Beijing. The way that this current incident was orchestrated though, it feels as if they really thought through how to respond to him…[T]his case does feel a lot different. It was very coordinated. At the same time that they detained him, they also raided his studio. While they were doing so, they didn’t permit anyone else to record. And he hasn’t been able to communicate since the detention. So, the authorities know the way that he operates, which is all about transparency and documentation. And they really want to make it so that he can’t operate in this way at all at this moment.

France, Germany, England, and the US have since called for Ai’s immediate release. We’re hoping for news from Mr. Ai soon.

Meanwhile, watch a preview for PBS‘ new feature on the artist — Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei?.

UPDATE: You can now watch Ai Weiwei’s TED presentation, where he says he hopes his art ”encourages a new generation of people use Internet to be aware of the real situation … [that] we are very much indignant of truth, facts — which are mostly covered up by government media.”:

See more of “Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei” at PBS.


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