Artist and Activist Ai Weiwei arrested and missing in China

The US and EU have spoken out over the detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei, in China. Police detained the 53-year-old at Beijing Airpport, on Sunday morning, as he was going through immigration. No one has been able to contact Ai Weiwei since.

It has also been reported that 8 of his studio workers were arrested at the artist’s studio in the north-west Beijing. They were questioned for several hours and then released. According to Art Lyst:

The police visited the studio several times last week in an attempt to intimidate the artist and his supporters.Dozens of police officers also raided the hotel rooms of supporters of Tan Zuore on Wednesday morning in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. They were there to testify on behalf of Tan Zuore a well-known writer and human-rights advocate on trial, charged with subversion. The group had also been planning an event, in June to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre of civilians by government forces, during the Tiananmen Square protests.

Mark Toner of the US State Department called for the artist’s immediate release, and added, “We obviously continue to be deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists for exercising their internationally recognised human right for freedom of expression.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague said, “I call on the Chinese government to urgently clarify Ai’s situation and wellbeing, and hope he will be released immediately.”

He also said, “The development of independent civil society and application of human rights under the rule of law are essential prerequisites for China’s long-term prosperity and stability.”

The Guardian reports that the EU delegation to China is concerned by the increasing use of arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, lawyers and activists:

Citing Ai’s case, it added: “We call on the Chinese authorities to refrain from using arbitrary detention under any circumstances.”

France and Germany earlier appealed for the artist’s release. “Ai Weiwei being taken away is not surprising to us; we just didn’t think it would happen now. I don’t think he had expected that either ... Let’s hope for the best,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer.

Pu said he had agreed to represent the artist if anything happened to him, but added that he had not been able to discuss the issue with Ai’s family yet. “The police had not given any kind of notice to the family – we can’t start the procedures. Even if they detain some kind of street thug, they have to give a notice within certain time, but for Ai Weiwei there is no information,” he added.

Ai has repeatedly clashed with authorities over his outspoken criticism. Friends are particularly alarmed by the length of his detention and the scope and co-ordination of the police operation. Officers have removed dozens of items, including documents and computers, from the artist’s studio.

His wife, Lu Qing, told Reuters: “This time it’s extremely serious. They searched his studio and took disks and hard drives and all kinds of stuff, but the police haven’t told us where he is or what they’re after. There’s no information about him.”

Liu Xiaoyuan, a human rights lawyer, told Reuters: “I hope he doesn’t have to face trial or be jailed,” he said. “But sometimes the things you don’t wish to happen could happen.”

Weiwei was due to visit London for an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery next month, a spokesperson for the gallery said: “We are dismayed by developments that again threaten Weiwei’s right to speak freely as an artist and hope that he will be released immediately.”

However, Ai Weiwei is not the only Chinese artist to have been detained, as the Guardian reports:

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said four artists from Beijing were detained on 24 March after a performance art event in the Chinese capital where some pieces touched on the crackdown and the “jasmine revolution”. An anonymous appeal for protests akin to the Middle East uprisings, which was posted on an overseas website, appears to have sparked the campaign against critics.

Artists Huang Xiang, Zhui Hun and Cheng Li were criminally detained for “causing a disturbance” by officers from Songzhuang police station and Guo Gai was also taken away, probably because he had taken pictures during the exhibition, CHRD said.

No one could be reached for comment at the Taihu detention centre, where the four are reportedly held. An employee at Songzhuang police station said: “I don’t know about the situation,” then added: “Actually, it is not convenient to talk about it.”

CHRD, which has been keeping a tally of the number of detentions, says in total about a dozen people have disappeared and 26 criminally detained in the latest sweep, with five released on bail. Another three have been formally arrested and one has been sent to re-education through labour.

Asked about concerns for the whereabouts and safety of those reported missing, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, told a regular press briefing last week: “China’s judicial authorities work independently. China, as a country under the rule of law, protects its citizens’ basic rights and freedoms – including freedom of expression – but citizens while exercising their rights have an obligation to abide by the law and should not bring harm to the public interest.”



Previously on DM

Artist Ai Weiwei under house arrest


Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:12 am



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