Chinese police detain dissident artist Ai Weiwei at airport
Monday 04 April 2011
Ai Weiwei, China's most controversial artist, was detained by police as he boarded a flight at Beijing airport yesterday, the highest-profile action yet in a clampdown on dissenting voices.
It has long been a question of when, not if, the authorities would haul in the 53-year-old artist, who is outspoken in his criticism of the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese government has arrested dozens of lawyers and writers since February in an attempt to stop protests similar to those seen in the Middle East and North Africa.
In an interview with Germany's ARD radio on Wednesday Mr Ai said: "Every day many people ask me on Twitter: 'How come they still have not come to you yet?' I don't know. But I think the possibility is high." Mr Ai, who has used his Twitter page to keep an informal tally of those arrested, was attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong when he was led off by two officials. One told Mr Ai's travelling companion that the artist had "other business" and could not board the plane.
Police also detained eight of Mr Ai's staff, according to updates posted by his associates on his Twitter feed, and surrounded his studio in Beijing's Chuangyi art district, which is also his home. Mr Ai was involved in the construction of the Olympic stadium but later disowned his contribution.
A stocky figure with a straggly beard, he is known for his humour, although his art is steeped in politics and sombre in tone. He gained attention in Britain with the recent Sunflower Seeds installation at Tate Modern.
His disdain for China's Communist Party is powerful, and he has repeatedly accused the government of not respecting the constitution and for human rights abuses, saying it was riddled with corruption and run by people "acting like the mafia".
With 70,000 followers, Mr Ai is a Twitter star in a country that bans the social network. He is also a cultural blue-blood, the son of the poet Ai Qing, who was denounced during the Cultural Revolution.
For long it appeared that his status had protected him from suffering the fate of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel laureate imprisoned for 11 years for subversion. In December Mr Ai was prevented from leaving the country, as authorities feared he was trying to attend the Nobel peace prize ceremony in Oslo.
In January, his studio in Shanghai was demolished. In 2009, police burst in to his hotel room in Chengdu and beat him so badly that surgeons in Munich later had to drill two holes in his head to remove fluid from his skull. His phone has been tapped for years and he and his associates are under constant surveillance.
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...