As international artist Ai Weiwei was about to board a plane in Beijing on April 3rd he was detained by Chinese authorities. He has not been heard from since, as of this writing.
Those who follow this blog, my twitter stream and my writing elsewhere, will know that I am highly critical of the Chinese government for precisely these kind of reasons, in this case, extra-judicial detentions. If Ai had been charged with some sort of crime then perhaps it would be another story, but he is being held on "suspected economic crimes."
In January, Chicago played host to Hu Jintao, the head of the People's Republic of China. I wrote a post with three questions I would have asked him if given the chance. Number one on my list: why does the government of China fear Ai Weiwei?
What I should have added: What can China do to insure Ai's safety?
The detention of Ai Weiwei for a crime is a farce. It masks the political nature of his imprisonment. As the UK's Guardian reports, the detention of Ai is part of a larger political crackdown by the Chinese government on dissidents. They report that at least 23 other people have been criminally detained, three more have been formally arrested, and "more than a dozen are missing, including a high profile human rights lawyer."
Our government has protested the detention of Ai Weiwei. From AFP: "State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington was "deeply
concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extra-legal detentions,
arrests and convictions of rights activists for exercising their
internationally recognized human rights. The detention of artist
and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedom and
human rights of all Chinese citizens," he said. "We urge the Chinese
government to release him immediately.""
The art world has followed suit and last week the Guggenheim created a petition calling for the release of Ai Weiwei. You can sign it here. Last week I was the 293rd signer, as of this writing, it is up to 29,000 signatures. The director of the Art Institute of Chicago, James Cuno, has signed, as has the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Madeleine Grynsztejn and their Chief Curator Michael Darling.
The art world is united in their calls for Ai's release and I hope you will add your voice to it.