Ai Weiwei, one of China’s best-known artists and a vocal critic of the Chinese government, has been arrested at the airport in Beijing. Ai was put under house arrest last year and has been harassed by officials in the past, including a forced demolition of his Shanghai studio, but now it seems that the government is really cracking down:
His detention comes amid a wider crackdown on activists and dissidents, which human rights campaigners describe as the worst in over a decade. At least 23 people have been detained, mostly in relation to incitement to subversion or creating a disturbance. Three more have been formally arrested and more than a dozen are missing, including high profile human rights lawyers.
The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos calls it the “most intense crackdown on free expression in years” in China.
Ai was about to board a flight to Hong Kong when he was detained. Cops are reportedly surrounding his Beijing studio and keeping his wife Lu Qing in there. They’ve also taken away eight of his assistants. A Guardian reporter on the scene was told in no uncertain terms to leave and had his camera taken and photographs deleted. This is one of the most high-profile arrests the Chinese government has made in quite a while.
China: where freedom of expression goes to die.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 3, 2011