Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

Courage is envisioning and articulating freedom that is yet to be actualized. Angela Davis talks about this—imagining change is the first step of making change. One year after his release following months of detainment without due process, Ai Weiwei wrote:

I often ask myself if I am afraid of being detained again. My inner voice says I am not. I love freedom, like anybody; maybe more than most people. But it is such a tragedy if you live your life in fear. That’s worse than actually losing your freedom.

…none of us have been dealt with through fair play, open trials and open discussion. China has not established the rule of law and if there is a power above the law there is no social justice. Everybody can be subjected to harm…

Stupidity can win for a moment, but it can never really succeed because the nature of humans is to seek freedom. They can delay that freedom but they can’t stop it.

(“Ai Weiwei: to live your life in fear is worse than losing your freedom,” Guardian, June 21, 2012):

Further, even as a known target of one of the world’s most secretive and repressive governments, Ai remains an optimist:

What I gained from the experience is a much stronger sense of responsibility, and an understanding of what the problems are and how one can understand what’s happening and remain a positive force. You have to see your own position from the other side. At the same time you have to maintain a passion for what you are doing. You have to have sensitivity and joy. If you don’t have that, you will be like a fish on the beach, drying up on the sand….


ai weiwei: problem or placation

Kyle Chayka posted on Hyperallergic today:

According to Ai Weiwei’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai’s FAKE studio has been accused (and seemingly convicted) of evading over $5 million RMB ($770,000 USD) and is to pay $7 million RMB ($1 million USD) in fines.

…At Artists Speak Out, Philip Bishop quotes Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong with an unconfirmed story of the aftermath of Ai’s release, in which the artist isn’t allowed to speak with one of his consistent collaborators:

Wong said the news on Sunday in Hong Kong was that when Ai Weiwei went to a park in Beijing to talk to Chiao Chiao, one of the video artists Ai works with, Chinese security called and reminded Ai Weiwei that “that wasn’t part of the deal,” said Wong.

…It remains to be seen what consequences and impact Ai’s release will have in the Chinese art world, and if the action is the signal of a relaxation of the government’s recent “Big Chill” or simply another gambit in a balancing act to keep political dissidents silent while the international community remains too placated to openly intervene.


Human Rights Watch: Ai Weiwei Case Reflects Disregard for Rule of Law

Here’s a very good position on Ai Weiwei’s release from Human Rights Watch’s website, posted June 22, 2011, with the subtitle, “Unlawful, Unwarranted Detention, and Onerous Restrictions Loom.” It sums up my sentiments exactly.

The release of the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei on June 22 is a relief for his family, friends and supporters, but leaves troubling unanswered questions about his arrest, detention and conditions of release, Human Rights Watch said today. In particular, Human Rights Watch is concerned about the political nature of his arrest, the conditions under which the police may have extracted a “confession” from him, and possible restrictions on freedoms he faces following his release….

“The Chinese government’s decision to arrest Ai Weiwei was political, and so is his release,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But it is also an example of how international pressure works, since Beijing was paying a high cost to its reputation for his detention.”

…In the past six months, the Chinese government has disappeared and/or arbitrarily detained dozens of activists, writers, lawyers, and others. Upon their release, several have retreated into uncharacteristic silence and seclusion, leading to concerns that they have been threatened with further abuses if they speak out. At least 10 others who are less well-known than Ai have been victims of enforced disappearances since mid-February. They remain incommunicado, their whereabouts unknown, and thus are at high risk of torture in custody.

“International pressure apparently prodded the Chinese government to conclude that the cost/benefit ratio of continuing to detain Ai Weiwei wasn’t worth it,” Richardson said. “The international community should maintain that same pressure for the release of the many other innocent victims of the Chinese government’s current wave of repression.”

Or as the Daily Beast put it:

Released but not free

Speaking to The Daily Beast/Newsweek by phone, Ai said he has been restricted from traveling outside Beijing or giving substantive interviews to the press for “at least a year.”


Ai Weiwei and the search for justice

From Christopher Bodeen, “Artist Ai Weiwei released by China, says he’s fine,” Associated Press (6/22/2011):

Renowned artist Ai Weiwei, the most high-profile target of a sweeping crackdown on activists in China, returned home late Wednesday after nearly three months in detention. Looking tired and thinner, he said the conditions of his release meant he could not talk more.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Ai confessed to tax evasion, accusations his family had long denied and which activists had denounced as a false premise for detaining him….

“I’m sorry I can’t (talk), I am on probation, please understand,” Ai said, speaking in English….

…Jerome Cohen, a top expert on Chinese law at New York University… said Ai was most likely released on a form of bail that restricts suspects’ movements to their home city for one year. However, authorities can reopen the case at any time, meaning Ai faces the ever-present threat of being detained again on the same accusations….

“It’s quite a step back for the regime. It demonstrates the utility of large amounts of international attention, plus international connections that had been sufficient to keep him out of jail before,” he said.

Ai’s release might also have been a face-saving move, coming just days before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was due to travel to Hungary, Britain and Germany, countries where supporters of the artist have been vocal in their condemnation of his detention.

A relief. But not justice.