Seeming to Defy Authorities, Ai Weiwei Speaks Against Injustice
The Chinese Communist regime attempted to muzzle him, but prominent Chinese
activist-artist Ai Weiwei did not manage to stay silent for long.
months since his release from a three-month detention on dubious and retroactive
charges of “tax evasion,” the 54-year-old Ai, an outspoken critic of the Chinese
communist regime, created an account on the social
networking site Google+, resumed use of his Twitter account, and spoke
with the nationalist Chinese newspaper Global Times, ignoring the official
one-year ban on interviews and social media imposed on him as conditions of his
A month after his June 22 release, Ai wrote on his Google+
profile: “I’m here. Greetings.” The July 25 post was followed up with a top-down
self-photo of Ai along with the note, “Here’s proof to life.”
On Aug. 5,
Ai appeared conspicuously on Twitter, where as of Wednesday evening he had
“How’s it going? … Hugs and good night,” Ai posted. In
subsequent days, Ai announced to his followers that he had gained seven pounds
after overeating dumplings; he shared a photo of his feet on a scale that read
State-run news agency Xinhua reported
in June that police had released Ai “due to his good attitude in confessing his
crimes,” a chronic illness, and his agreement to pay back “taxes” that he had
While authorities maintain that the case was strictly
one of pursuing his “economic crimes,” many believe it was clearly retaliation
for Ai’s frequently acerbic political remarks.
After testing the waters for a few days with superficial
greetings and posts, Ai began a string of updates about his associates and
fellow pro-democracy activists who were still imprisoned.
“I saw Liu
Zhenggang today,” Ai wrote on Monday, Aug. 8, referring to his designer friend
who worked at Ai’s studio, and who was detained due to his connection with Ai.
“It’s the first time that he has talked about the detention. He held up
his right hand and said, ‘Reporting to supervisor, I need to drink water.’ Then, tears rolled off this tough man’s face. …
He had a heart attack when he was at the detention facilities and almost died.”
A day later, Ai spoke out in support of writer and blogger Ran Yunfei,
who was released on Tuesday, Aug. 9, after nearly six months in detention, and
another dissident, Wang Lihong, a 56-year-old woman who was arrested in March
for protesting outside the court where three fellow activists were on trial in
the southern city of Fuzhou.
“If you don’t speak up for Wang Lihong and
Ran Yunfei, you are not only a person who does not stand up for fairness and
justice, but a person who fails to have any self-respect,” Ai said in a Tweet
that was by far his strongest since his release.
Ai didn’t limit his
outspokenness to the Internet and social media, accepting an interview with a
Chinese newspaper and speaking out about human rights.
“I’ve been drawn
into the vortex of politics,” Ai told the Global Times, saying that he would
“never avoid politics” because he vowed to fight for rights and saw China’s
political system as unjust. The Global Times is under the control of the
Communist Party flagship newspaper People’s Daily.
“You give up your
rights when you dodge them. Of course you might live an easier life if you
abandon some rights,” Ai told the state-backed newspaper. “But there are so many
injustices, and limited educational resources. They all diminish happiness. I
will never stop fighting injustice.”
Amid potential sanctions should
government officials admonish him over his fresh criticism of the status quo, Ai
remains optimistic about political and social change in China.
information explosion, and the development of the Internet, have made the
impossible possible,” Ai said. “This is the best time for China.”
Ai has declined giving interviews to Western media outlets, citing the authorities’
restrictions. His recent remarks were published only in English in the Global
Times, indicating that the authorities may see some propaganda value in allowing
the internationally famous artist to speak publicly without reprisal.
The only mention of Ai in the Chinese
version of the paper was from May, stating, “The law will not make any
allowances for Ai Weiwei.” That strident editorial was published after Ai had been in extralegal detention for
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