Amnesty International
4 April 2011

China detains Ai Weiwei as warning against dissent

The detention of China’s most famous artist and political critic Ai Weiwei is a troubling development in a widening crackdown on dissent which has seen dozens of activists detained over the last few months, Amnesty International said today.

Police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing airport on 3 April. His wife and several members of his studio staff were also briefly detained on the weekend.

“Ai Weiwei was not even involved in any call for ‘Jasmine’ protests. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China’s time for open dissent has come to an end,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific.

Since online calls for Chinese ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests inspired by people’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa began circulating in late February, the Chinese authorities have rounded up dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers.

“We’ve already seen the chilling effect the ‘Jasmine Revolution’-related arrests have had on Chinese activists and netizens over the past month. Holding Ai Weiwei takes this to another level,” said Sam Zarifi.

“If the authorities are so bold as to grab this world-renowned artist in broad daylight at Beijing airport, it’s frightening to think how they might treat other, lesser known dissidents.”


Update (4-14-2011): AI issued an Urgent Action for Ai Weiwei that also includes several of his business associates. They are all detained incommunicado at unknown locations.

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