Chinese Artist and Activist Ai Weiwei Held for ‘Economic Crimes’


April 4, 2011

[Updated] Four days after he was taken into custody, the Chinese government officially announced on Thursday it is investigating famed artist Ai Weiwei for suspected “economic crimes.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not specify the nature of the charges in greater detail, but warned other countries to “respect China’s decision.”

Police detained Ai on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong last Sunday, and simultaneously raided his studio. In the process, they confiscated computers, hard drives, CDs and notebooks, and questioned his wife, Lu Qing, nephew and eight studio assistants. His detention follows a wave of recent crackdowns on prominent Chinese writers, lawyers and activists.

Just last week, FRONTLINE aired a report profiling how Ai, China’s first ‘global art star,’ has confronted Chinese authorities through his art and activism. As you can see in the clip above, his defiance has been met with surveillance, detention and even physical attack from police.

Since his detention, Ai’s online presence has been taken over by his staff. Here’s a sampling of their tweets on his Twitter account, translated into English*:

One hour ago a bunch of police came to Ai Weiwei Studios at Caochangdi FAKE 258 with a search warrant and 8 staff members were taken away to Bejiing Chaoyang District Nangao police station for questioning: Xuye, Qian Feifei, Dongjie, Xiaowei, Xiaoxie, XingruiJiangli, Xiaopang Zhizi. Lu Qing is with the police at home. There are now police in front of the studio and no one is allowed to enter. Ai Weiwei was detained at Beijing Capital Airport 3 hours ago and [we] have been unable to contact him. (This is an assistant tweeting).

April 3, 2011. Ai Weiwei was detained by two customs officers while crossing customs in Beijing Capital Airport. Just separated Ai Weiwei and his assistant. By the two customs officers taken to a separate location. Ai Weiwei’s phone has been shut off, and he’s already been out of contact for 50 minutes. The situation is unclear. Please everyone pay attention. (Note: This is an assistant tweeting.)

*English Twitter translations courtesy of the Bird’s Nest Tumblr.

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