An NYU law professor weighs in on Ai’s case:
… whatever the evidence being assembled about tax evasion or other charges, that this was not the motivation for Ai’s detention. This case started out on a “detain first and look for justification later” basis. If evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction is found, the case will become a preeminent example of what criminal justice experts call “selective prosecution.” Ai has been singled out from a large number of potentially suspected offenders not because of the magnitude of any alleged economic crimes but because of his creative and eye-catching political challenges to the regime and his defense of human rights.
…however the investigation phase of this case ends, it has already demonstrated once again how far China’s police are not only from adhering to the standards of fair criminal justice enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the government signed in 1998 but has yet to ratify, but also from adhering to their own country’s criminal procedure law. If a famous figure like Ai Weiwei can be so blatantly abused in the glare of publicity, what protections do ordinary Chinese citizens receive from their police?
—Jerome Cohen, “The Ai Weiwei Case: So Far, So Bad.” NYU School of Law’s US Asia Law Institute Blog, April 26, 2011.
In a spineless act of omission, NYC’s Parks and Rec department fails to mention Ai’s nearly month-long disappearance in its press release promoting Full Circle: Ai Weiwei and the Emperor’s Fountain, the forthcoming exhibition of photographs of Ai and his sculptures in Central Park.
The text even touts the nuanced political history informing the sculptures. But by neglecting to mention the enormous price the artist is currently paying for his activism, the Arsenal Gallery appears to be abandoning the artist to fate, even as his physical whereabouts are unknown and his safety is likely endangered. The fear of taking a political position and stirring up controversy is far too common. I would like to think that American civic values translate to being courageous—not cowardly—in the face of injustice.