Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Speaks on Beijing and Political Imprisonment: "There's No Way to Even Question It"

 When acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei was imprisoned by the Chinese government for being a "deviant," supporters around the world spoke out through letters, phone calls and their own art. While there, he was psychologically tortured, according to reports from his sister, who said he'd been imprisoned in a room with constant light, while guards sat uncomfortably close to him at all times. In late June, he was finally freed after being detained for three months, with the belief that he was held for his outspokenness against the government. Knowing not everyone in the Chinese penal system would be as lucky, this week he wrote a brilliant, eloquent, and terrifying piece about the emotional and cultural climate of Beijing for Newsweek, calling it "a nightmare city":

Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.


Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.

Ai Weiwei's writing is just as evocative and beautiful as his sculpture; this particular piece of political commentary has the verbal elegance and abject horror of a Solzhenitsyn. Read it in its entirety here



AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at August 29, 2011, 7:03am

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