Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ai Weiwei "harmonized"

(image grabbed from archinect.)

Artist/architect/activist Ai Weiwei is probably best known in the US for designing the iconic "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium in Beijing and then disassociating himself from the project in protest of China's "disgusting" political conditions. But his art has long had a political component, and lately his activism has been nothing short of fearless. In recent months, Ai has investigated the casualties in the Beichuan quake, in attempt to fully document the names of the victims, many of them children. In the last week, he reported being harassed in a pattern all too familiar to Chinese activists - visits by anonymous authorities, invitations to "chat" and "drink tea."
At 7:40 pm, I exited the embassy, which has at least three levels of prison-like security. Listening to Ms. "Human Rights" Pelosi, I was struck by the amount of money that could turn a once-crafty heroine into an obsequious, felonious old bag. Even more ridiculous is the claim that the US Embassy inherits from ancient Chinese styles. Gag.

So that my mobile phone wouldn't be confiscated by US Marines, I left it in the car. When I returned my mother's phone call, she said anxiously that four plainclothes policemen were waiting at home and were continually asking about my residence out by the airport road. I immediately said I was coming home. It had been a few days since I'd seen her.

What happened afterward is like an absurdist novel gone bad. The seemingly nice domestic security officer was not carrying a police ID, and I refused to talk with someone whose identity was unknown. He said his colleagues had ID, I said my comrade was Clinton. He began to talk about feelings, something I avoid altogether. I had to ask them to leave, and then called 110. The mincing 110 response — two pitiful policemen who hadn't brought any ID. They said, it was you who called us, so I said, I'm a tax-payer, and he said, we've got badge numbers on our uniforms and there's a police car outside, so I said, where's the proof you didn't steal them, so the two of them had to go back and pick them up at the station. Then we all went to the station, and the officers there were a little surprised to see a domestic security officer being brought in to make a statement. One officer did both the questioning and the recording. It was a little comical, but I benevolently signed my name. Then they refused to issue a written acknowledgement of the report, saying, we were just talking and it wasn't a crime. I said, I didn't call 110 for fun, and then I called lawyer Hao, but the signal was poor in Shanxi, so I called Liu Xiaoyuan, who said that state security had chatted with him in the past. The domestic security officer I had reported vanished. I stormed out of the station and, I'm not exaggerating this at all, said, you've wasted tax payer money, you're dishonorable, you're pathetic. If you don't unlock the door, your station's not going to have a door anymore.
I strongly recommend you go to Danwei and read the whole thing, which also includes a post by lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan on the right of Chinese citizens to refuse to "chat."

Two days ago, Ai Weiwei's blogs were shut down. The last entry, titled "I'm Ready," was translated by China Digital Times. Be sure to read that too.

UPDATE: According to Danwei, Ai Weiwei has a new blog: and Twitter account @aiww. If it is Ai Weiwei, he's only following one person on Twitter, "There is no Ai Weiwei on Twitter." Which sounds about right...

(NOTE: "Harmonized" is China Netspeak referencing one of the official goals of the Hu Jintao leadership, building a "Harmonious Society." Anything insufficiently "harmonious" invites censorship)

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