China Detains Artist Ai Wei Wei, Designer of Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium

China’s crackdown on dissent continues: On Sunday, Chinese authorities reportedly detained the country’s best-known artist, Ai Wei Wei, the Guardian reports. Ai, who designed the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium, was approached by police at the immigration control at the Beijing Airport as he was to board a flight to Hong Kong for business. Police have searched his studio, confiscated computers and questioned his assistants.

According to the BBC, “China’s authorities appear on edge over calls for a so-called Jasmine Revolution, partly inspired by pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.”

Human rights activists say that the crackdown in China has been the harshest in decades with some 23 activists, lawyers, writers and others criminally detained in recent weeks on charges of incitement of subversion or creating a disturbance. Three more have been arrested and more than a dozen, including “high profile human rights lawyers,” have been missing.

The Guardian describes what appears to be investigation of Ai:

Uniformed and plainclothes police surrounded and searched his studio in Caochangdi, in the north of the capital. Power to the neighbourhood was cut off.

Men who appeared to be plainclothes officers grabbed the phone of a Guardian journalist who photographed the scene and deleted the image. A uniformed man said: “You are not allowed to be on this street. You must leave.”

A staff member told the BBC Chinese news service that officers had taken away eight of Ai’s assistants and volunteers.

A friend of the artist tweeted that most had been released but that his wife Lu Qing and two employees remained out of contact.

Police are thought to have searched two other properties relating to Ai and visited the mother of his two-year-old son.

…Ai’s assistant said, however that the artist appeared to have no particular concerns prior to his detention today. Ai’s mobile was not available and telephones at his studio rang unanswered. Posts about Ai on the popular Weibo microblog were deleted.

Ai is a controversial figure in China. He is a world-renowned artist and the son of a famous poet who is also an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s human rights violations. In January, Ai arrived at his studio in Shanghai, only to find workers and heavy machinery knocking it down. Ai has supported Liu Xiaobo, the political prisoner who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year; demanded democracy for China; and criticized the government for the death of schoolchildren in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The Chinese government has certainly been keeping watch on Ai. As he told German TV station ARD on Friday:

“There are two surveillance cameras at my gate entrance, my phone is tapped, and every message I send on my microblog is censored by them. Obviously, I am not free.”

Previous Care2 Coverage

China Crackdowns on Journalists, Closes Tibet to Foreigners

China Quashes Calls for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ on Sunday

Chinese Truck Driver Sentenced to Life in Prison for Not Paying Tolls


Photo of Ai Wei Wei in Manhattan in October of 2008 by Doctor Noe


Liling O4 years ago

This is scary to read this kind of news.

Maybe things will turn out better for these people.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

A dictatorship by committee has a hard time taking criticism. The government is changing for the better. But it'll take more time for the government in China to evolve into a true democracy that allows criticism. But don't think the the Western democracies have solved the problem of public opinion. The people in power still can't take it here too.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thanks for sharing

Gloria W.
Gloria W.6 years ago

poor China, their government sucks!!!

Gloria W.
Gloria W.6 years ago

China is so rich but to poor with human rights

Bart V.
Bart V.6 years ago

A previous comment refers to "not Western way". Liberty & justice are not western concepts but things to which all human beings aspire.Their government knows they have the upper hand; not only with their own people, but with the west (us), as we owe them billions in loans.If we were to delay payments until they offer greater freedoms to their people; perhaps that might help.Remember the old saying: "If you owe the bank a thousand dollars, you're in trouble. If you owe the bank a million dollars, they're in trouble."

Bart V.
Bart V.6 years ago

It is deplorable to think that almost everything in our homes today was made or assembled in China, while they treat their own people with such draconian disdain. Try to boycott goods from China. You can`t. The thousands of items around us come from that Communist dictatorship. This is no reflection on the people of China; just on their paranoid & ruthless government.

Myriam Garcon
Myriam G6 years ago

Free Ai Wei Wei, Liu Xiaobo, and all who are jailed for their opinions in China, and all over the world.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Carole H.
Carole H6 years ago

Fear works both ways - the Chinese authorities cling to power by (like most authoritarian states) trying to subject its people by fear - however, by, as in this case, arresting or detaining those subjects it deems to be dangerous to the state, show itself as actually weak and inherently fearful.