Release Ai Weiwei – sign the petition here.
On Sunday, outspoken Chineses artist Ai Weiwei was detained at Beijing airport on his way to Hong Kong. His home and studio were also raided and his computer and papers were removed. His assistants have also been interviewed by police, and the studio was search again by police today. Ai’s arrest is not just a small matter of Chinese politics – it has serious implications for the rights and freedoms of Chinese people.
For several days, the Chinese government gave no explanation for why Ai had been detained. Eventually they said that he was being detained “on suspicion of economic crimes.” However, after a Government press conference on Thursday, all references to Ai Weiwei (8 out of 18 questions) had been removed from the official transcript.
Ai devised “Sunflower Seeds“, an installation of 100million porcelain sunflower seeds at Tate Modern. He also helped to design the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But he is a vocal critic of the Chinese government, and he has faced severe repercussions for expressing his views and defending his rights. His new studio was torn down by officials as soon as it opened, and he has been arrested and beaten by the authorities. His online communication has also been censored and restricted.
Until recently, it was assumed Ai Weiwei’s international reputation afforded him a measure of protection, as did the fact that his father is a well-known poet in China. But his arrest raises serious questions about the lengths the Chinese government are willing to go to in the name of “social harmony”. By detaining Ai, the Chinese government are signalling to their critics that they will not tolerate any kind of dissent.
Various world leaders have already condemned those responsible and urged them to release Ai. The petition started by several large Arts organisations is another way to show the Chinese government that it is unacceptable for them to control their people with fear and intimidation.
So please, if you value your own freedom, sign the petition and play a part in securing similar freedom for the citizens of China.