Monday, 29 August 2011

Ai Weiwei speaks out about his time in detention and life in Beijing

In an article published in Newsweek, China´s dissident artist Ai Weiwei has written about his time in detention and life in Beijing:

“You’re in total isolation. And you don’t know how long you’re going to be there, but you truly believe they can do anything to you. There’s no way to even question it,” he wrote of the experience of being detained.
“You’re not protected by anything. Why am I here? Your mind is very uncertain of time. You become like mad. It’s very hard for anyone. Even for people who have strong beliefs,” he wrote.

Entitled “The City: Beijing”, the article appears to use Ai’s dark vision of modern Beijing – a city, he says, of power and money, filled with desperate, hopeless citizens – as a metaphor for his own troubled state of mind.
As well as attacking the opaque workings of China’s judicial system, he also attacks business-hungry foreigners for being hoodwinked into believing Beijing is like any other western city by suit-wearing Communist Party officials while “they deny us basic rights”.

With black understatement, Ai extols the positives about living in modern China – “People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks”. – and then wonders out loud why his fellow citizens are so cowed, urging them not to be so.
“Last week I walked in one [park], and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder,” he writes, “Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for?”
Despairingly, Ai concludes: “This city is not about other people or buildings or streets but about your mental structure. If we remember what Kafka writes about his Castle, we get a sense of it. Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.”

Read the entire article here

Ai Weiwei, was formally investigated for alleged tax avoidance, but in reality he was arrested for speaking out about the lack of human rights in China. It remains to be seen, how Chinese authorities react to Ai´s article. The release conditions are understood to have forbidden him to give interviews, but they do not specifically state that he cannot write articles.

It would not be at all surprising if China´s communist leadership would decide to arrest him again. The corrupted, authoritarian regime is not likely to shy away from any measures if it feels threatened by demands for freedom and human rights.

It is also worth remembering that communist China is the home of the largest network of gulags anywhere, providing slave labour for the fast growing Chinese economy.

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