World-renowned artist Ai Weiwei was arrested in April by Chinese authorities and detained for 81 days, at a time when dozens of activists, lawyers and dissidents were arrested earlier this year. An international outcry arose over the imprisonment of Ai, who had long been a outspoken critic of human rights abuses in China. Chinese authorities charged Ai with economic crimes and released him “because of his good attitude in confessing” and a chronic illness, says the Guardian.
One of the conditions of Ai’s release was not to speak publicly about being detained; he was banned from using Twitter. But Ai has already†sent a number of angry tweets recently about friends who had been involved in his case. He has also written an†article about Beijing on the website of Newsweek magazine that describes a city in which government officials and businessmen live very, very well while migrant workers from villages who’ve “never seen electricity or toilet paper” toil as “Beijing’s slaves.”
Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Birdís Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrantsí schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitchesóand when they find the patients donít have any money, they pull the stitches out. Itís a city of violence.
The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; itís like a sandstorm. You donít see yourself as part of the cityóthere are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing, according to somebody elseís will, somebody elseís power.
Ai refers directly to his detainment as an “ordeal” that made him understand what Beijing is, a “nightmare.” Forget about the glossy images of bullet trains and BMWs:
… there are many hidden spots where they put people without identity. With no name, just a number. They donít care where you go, what crime you committed. They see you or they donít see you, it doesnít make the slightest difference. There are thousands of spots like that. Only your family is crying out that youíre missing. But you canít get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation. My wife has been writing these kinds of petitions every day, making phone calls to the police station every day. Where is my husband? Just tell me where my husband is. There is no paper, no information.
Photo of Ai WeiWei after his release by Chinese authorities by DigiPub
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