Chinese Police Detain Ai Weiwei

China’s best-known artist Ai Weiwei has been detained at Beijing airport this morning and police have surrounded his studio in the capital, reports the Guardian.

The 53-year-old, who designed the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium, has been an outspoken critic of the government. Although he has previously experienced harassment by officials, he appeared to be relatively protected by the status of his late father, a renowned poet, and his high international profile; last year, he created the Sunflower Seeds installation for Tate Modern.

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.

Ai was due to fly to Hong Kong for business this morning, but was detained at immigration on his way out of Beijing. An officer told an assistant who was travelling with him that the artist had “other business” and could not board the plane.

Between 15 and 20 uniformed and plain clothes police surrounded his studio in Caochangdi, in the north of the capital, and more were believed to be searching it. Power to the neighbourhood was cut off.

Men who appeared to be plainclothes police grabbed the phone of a Guardian journalist who took a photograph of the scene and deleted the image. A uniformed officer told the reporter: “You are not allowed to be on this street. You must leave.”

One resident said: “I went outside to see what was going on and saw a lot of police…I cannot understand it. What has he done?”

About the author

Rebecca Wilson
In May 2006, Rebecca Wilson brought her expertise from 14 years in book and art magazine publishing to the Saatchi Gallery, where she launched an online daily magazine for the gallery's expanding website. In 2007 she created New Sensations, a prize for art students which identifies and supports the most exciting emerging artists. The prize is run in the UK with Channel 4 and will be launch in North America in 2011. As well as working on Saatchi Online, she is Associate Director of the Saatchi Gallery in London. Prior to joining The Saatchi Gallery, Rebecca was editor of ArtReview, and before that deputy editor of Modern Painters.

10 Comments

  1. kerri says:

    ‘NO WAY ‘CHINA NEEDS TO KNOW THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING THEM AND ANYONE WHO CAN HELP AI WEIWEI SHOULD DO SO.”

    THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT NEED TO RECOGNIZE GREAT ART AND ARTIST EXPRESSION AS AN INTERPRETATION AND NOT SOMETHING TO BE ASHAMED OF OR THREATENED BY.
    WE SHOULD ALL DO A GLOBAL ACTION TO HELP HIM AND OTHERS LIKE HIM

    Reply
  2. Another way\ attempet to silent those with creative minds, those who stand for much more then themselves, those who are not affraid. My wishes of freedom go out to the chinese in all the ways they struggle. I hope someday we all well realize how much freedom means, and before its to late, Never allow them to take it away, In pieces. Suppression of the people, suppression of the word, suppression of the mind, will not stop the everyday creations of the Modern Day Artists. IT ONLY SLOWS US DOWN!!!

    Reply
  3. _STATEMENT & REQUEST_

    Hu Jintao & Chinese government,

    We call upon you to immediately release MR AI WEIWEI and all other Chinese citizens who have been similarly detained. We further call upon you to restore online access to their names and works. Stability and security comes from addressing the underlying causes of dissent, not silencing it. Sign this statement & request ©THE ALEX CEBALL STUDIO_WORLDWIDE_ and all its worldwide related projects.

    Alex Ceball
    Director in Chief|International Editor

    ©THE ALEX CEBALL STUDIO_WORLDWIDE_
    bcn|paris|nyc|bln|lon|ams|stock|bsas|scl

    april 2011

    Reply
  4. slaven says:

    That just shows on what level Chinese state is and how far backwards and primitive their government still are (I mean government not all Chinese people because there is a huge difference). Its an oppressive regime and they won’t change any time soon. Only if they are forced to by their own people.

    Reply
  5. totally in love with my new Canon Powershot S95…

    Reply
  6. Patrick Durston says:

    Um… which post or article are you on Christopher by any chance???

    Patrick.

    (Hey?) What the …….

    Reply
  7. Lynne Fornieles says:

    Give this one all you’ve got Rebecca..he’ll need all the publicity and support he can get.

    Reply
  8. Lee Pirozzi says:

    All of the respect China has had for building its economy, its art, and any other achievements hailed as pioneering and inspiring in the past few years – will catapult to a black tunnel in the eyes of the intelligent who revere artists
    brave enough to depict, document and challenge politics and controversial subjects.

    In the eyes of the world viewing – the countries progress will disappear – because responding with such paranoia to an artist’s works – gives the world the message that there is something the government needs to hide. Because the world does not know what that is – the impressions drawn from detainment of the artist are more detrimental to public opinion than any freedom of expression.

    Further detainment of the artist will only bring more press coverage. Impingement of artists’ freedom in this day is viewed with the same disgust as
    impingement of journalists and photographers. You cannot beat the current fast paced media for exposure. Surely China will – set their art and artist free.

    Reply
  9. John Rula says:

    BOYCOTT CHINESE PRODUCTS UNTIL ALL ARE FREED 111111111BUY ‘ NOTHING I REPEAT NOTHING THAT IS MADE IN CHINA’ MAYBE THAT WILL GET THIER ATTENTION…MONEY TALKS BULLSHIT WALKS…FREE THEM ALL11111peace and freedom to us all!!!!!

    Reply
  10. lpjt-Valka says:

    Thats classic in the regime, where he was more powerfull and above the system. U cannot live in comunustic regime, if you are not common…:2

    Reply

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